Oral thrush is a fungal infection in your mouth, throat, or esophagus. It occurs when Candida a fungus, that's found in your mouth and digestive tract, multiplies. White patches similar to a rash appear in the mouth, on the tongue and cheeks, and in the throat.
Anyone can develop thrush. Candida, or yeast, is responsible for diaper rash as well as vaginal yeast infections in women. Oral thrush is most common in babies, toddlers, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.
Oral Thrush Symptoms in Adults
Oral Thrush has different symptoms depending on your age and the type of infection, including:
- White, rash-like patches on the tongue, cheeks, upper mouth, tonsils, and throat
- A dry sensation, or cotton-like feeling in your mouth
- Loss of taste
- Raised red spots similar to cottage cheese
- Redness and cracking around your mouth
If the yeast overgrowth has traveled to your esophagus, you may experience throat pain and have trouble swallowing. People who smoke or wear dentures are also more prone to developing oral thrush.
Oral Thrush Symptoms in Infants And Mothers
If your child has oral thrush, you'll see the same thick, white patches on the tongue as well as in the mouth and throat. Other symptoms of this condition in babies include:
- A sore mouth
- Decreased sucking when breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, which results in consuming less milk
- White coating on the tongue
- Sensitive, cracked, or sore nipples if you're breastfeeding
Remedies and Treatments for Oral Thrush
Treatment is designed to stop the fungus from spreading, but it's also important to determine the infection's underlying causes. This can prevent future infections and keep yeast under control.
Take care of your teeth by brushing and flossing at least twice a day. Don't share your toothbrush with anyone and replace it often until the infection clears. If you wear dentures, disinfect them as fungus-covered dentures can lead to reinfection. Talk to your dentist to determine the best way to clean your appliances.
If oral thrush is developed while breastfeeding, place pads on your breasts to prevent the infection from spreading to your clothing. Avoid pads with plastic barriers, which can cause yeast to grow. Wear a clean bra every day and talk to your doctor to determine how to clean bottles, pacifiers, and breast pumps if you use one.
If you have a mild case of oral thrush after a course of antibiotics, consider eating yogurt or taking an over-the-counter (OTC) acidophilus pill. Probiotics help repopulate the "good" bacteria in your body.
Severe cases of thrush are usually treated with antifungal medications. They're available as tablets, lozenges, or liquids that you swish around in your mouth before swallowing. Common medications include:
- Antifungal mouthwash (nystatin)
- Lozenges (clotrimazole)
- Antifungal medicines like fluconazole (Diflucan) or itraconazole (Sporanox). These are taken in tablet or liquid form.
The course of treatment depends on your age and the cause of the fungal infection. A course of medication lasts from 10 to 14 days.
When to See Your Doctor
If your immune system is uncompromised, oral thrush should resolve within two weeks. If you are immunocompromised or have an underlying medical condition, call your doctor. Here are some symptoms that may be warning signs:
- Thrush-like sores that don't go away
- Difficulty or pain when swallowing
- Thrush symptoms with an underlying medical condition, like HIV
If you suspect your child has oral thrush, seek medical care if they:
- Are dehydrated
- Haven't urinated in more than eight hours
- Have dark urine and a dry mouth
- Bleeding sores in the mouth
- Look or act very sick.
A Candida infection may be an indication of other diseases or medical problems. Talk to your doctor to set up any additional treatment plans.