Oral thrush is a yeast infection of the mouth. It is very common in children and babies, and can be common in people who wear dentures or those who are prone to infections due to other medical conditions. Certain medications can put you at higher risk of developing oral thrush, including taking a course of antibiotics or using an asthma inhaler that contains a steroid.
If you have oral thrush you will usually have a mouth that is more red than usual, with white patches over the top. The white patches can be rubbed off, and may lead to slight bleeding underneath if you do so. Oral thrush can cause pain and changes to your taste, it may be sore when you eat and drink, and babies be reluctant to start or continue feeding as it is painful.
Thrush is caused by a yeast infection called candida, and it can occur in many different parts of the body, as well as the mouth. Candida is easily treated with anti-fungal medications that come in the form of oral drops, pessaries, creams or tablets. The recommended treatment depends on where the infection is.
It is possible to pass thrush on, and it is common for a baby with oral thrush to pass it on and cause a candidal nipple infection.
There are some simple ways to avoid common causes of oral thrush. For children, sterilising bottles and dummies will reduce the chance of infection. Adults should avoid smoking and ensure good dental hygiene. If you use an inhaler, you should change your spacer once a year and make sure you are rinsing your mouth after using the inhaler. If you wear dentures you should avoid wearing dentures at night.
You are fit for work if you have oral thrush.
If your child has oral thrush and is more than 4 months old, your pharmacist will be able to recommend some treatment that can be trialled for mild symptoms without seeing your doctor. Children under 4 months old, or adults with an unexplained cause of oral thrush, should book a routine appointment with their doctor and could trial some treatment from their pharmacist in the meantime. You should also speak to your doctor if there is pain or soreness when eating and drinking, or if the symptoms are particularly severe.
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