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Dr Russ Blog - Helping to Manage Childhood Oral Thrush
Helping to Manage Childhood Oral Thrush
Created on 2/28/2012

M sent in a question that many parents have - how can they help their older child who has oral thrush?

M's youngster had an infection recently, and while being treated with antibiotics developed white patches on the inside cheeks and tongue that are characteristic of oral thrush.

Even though the time course and findings strongly suggest the problem is oral thrush, it's always best to first touch base with your child's doctor. They can review not only the current situation but also your child's medical history, as well as other considerations.

Once the diagnosis of uncomplicated oral thrush is confirmed there is some good news, but first just a little background.

Oral thrush is a fungal infection (think yeast)  that commonly affects infants, and also older children who are taking antibiotics or inhaled steroids. The bacteria that typically inhabit the mouth (there are plenty of them!) keep fungi in check so under normal circumstances they do not cause thrush. Antibiotics and spray steroids can disrupt the makeup of the mouth's bacteria, which may then permit oral thrush to develop.

In and of itself the infection is not dangerous, and given time a healthy child usually clears the infection a few weeks after they have finished their course of antibiotics, for example. But since oral thrush can be uncomfortable treatment is usually indicated.

Your child's doctor may recommend a liquid antifungal medication with instructions for older kids to "swish and swallow" - swirl the liquid all around the mouth and then swallow it down.

Probiotic supplements (products containing live microbes that should help promote health) may also be beneficial. You may have heard about "acidophilus" - this is one type of probiotic, but now there are many to choose from, and they can be found at most pharmacies.

Some parents also feed their kids plain yogurt - but be sure to look for yogurt that 1) is low in sugar (fungi / yeast really like sugar) and 2) contains live active cultures. In this case it is not enough to purchase a product whose label states it was made with live cultures - it should contain live cultures when you purchase it. These cultures may act as probiotics.

But first things first - if you think your child has oral thrush talk with the doctor before doing anything else.

I hope this helps, M, and that your little one is feeling well again soon.

Be well.
Dr. Russ
** Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. **


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