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Thrush is an oral yeast infection that commonly affects newborns and younger children, but it may also affect adults with weakened immune systems.

Thrush is caused by Candida albicans, a yeast that's also responsible for vaginal yeast infections and yeast diaper rashes. Thrush is known to prompt symptoms such as white patches or a white coating in the mouth, as well as redness and burning. 

Candida naturally live in the mouth and other areas of the body without causing any issues. But if your immune system is impaired by a health condition or medication, yeast can start to get out of control, leading to thrush.

While thrush can resolve on its own, over-the-counter options may help it along. In some cases, it may need to be treated with antifungal prescription drugs.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is thrush contagious?

    Thrush is not considered contagious. It is not typically passed from person to person, unless one person has a weakened immune system. In some instances, thrush can be passed back and forth between an infant and breastfeeding mother.

  • What causes thrush?

    Thrush is caused by an overgrowth of a yeast called Candida albicans. Candida populations are usually harmless unless they grow out of control, which sometimes happens after a course of oral antibiotics, if you're taking inhaled steroids (as with asthma), have poor oral hygiene, or if your immune system is suppressed.

  • How is thrush treated?

    Mild cases of thrush may be left to resolve on their own, with a focus on oral hygiene and home remedies such as active-culture yogurt to manage symptoms. In mild cases of thrush that appear after taking antibiotics, over-the-counter probiotics or antifungals may be necessary. In more aggressive cases, a prescription antifungal might be warranted, depending on your age and the severity.

  • What does thrush look like?

    Thrush typically shows up as a velvety white coating or creamy patches that appear on the inner surfaces of the mouth. If a tongue depressor is used to scrape off the white coating, red, inflamed sores are revealed underneath.

  • How long does oral thrush last without treatment?

    In babies and children, mild cases of thrush may resolve in a week or two without treatment. However, thrush can be continually passed back and forth from a breastfeeding mother's nipple or from a pacifier or bottle to the infant's mouth, and vice versa. In these cases, antifungal treatments may be warranted. Thrush treatment options should always be discussed with your child's pediatrician.

  • How do babies get thrush?

    Babies can get thrush from their mother while they're still in the womb, or after passing through the vaginal canal during birth. Because babies' immune systems aren't fully developed in the first few months of life, this may allow a normal Candida population to overgrow. Thrush may only be a minor irritation for a baby, but if it keeps recurring, talk to your pediatrician.

Key Terms

Alochol/coffee/tea (reduce), a tongue scraper, medications (avoid certain substances that may cause it), a laser (for laser surgery), antifungal creams, peroxide-free mouth wash (How to Prevent Black Tongue)
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Page Sources
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  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Thrush and other Candida infections. Updated November 21, 2015.

  2. Coronado-Castellote L, Jiménez-Soriano Y. Clinical and microbiological diagnosis of oral candidiasis. J Clin Exp Dent. 2013;5(5):e279-e286. doi:10.4317/jced.51242 

  3. Robertson KD, Nagra N, Mehta D. Esophageal candidiasis. Aug. 8, 2020. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-.

  4. Mohamed AA, Lu XL, Mounmin FA. Diagnosis and treatment of esophageal candidiasis: Current updates. Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 2019 Oct 20;2019. doi:10.1155/2019/3585136

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