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Thrush - how it can affect you and your baby

Thrush is a common fungal infection. It occurs when a yeast fungus that is found in all our bodies, and which is usually kept under control by harmless bacteria, starts to grow too quickly.

If conditions in the body change or when the immune system is weaker, as in newborn babies, levels of candida in the body can start to increase too rapidly and this can then lead to problems and thrush infection.


Very young babies often get thrush in their mouths which is known as oral thrush. If the baby is breast-fed, this can then be passed on to the mother's nipples or breast. Babies can also get thrush around their bottoms as it flourishes in warm, damp areas. Many women will experience vaginal thrush at some point during their lives.


How will I know if my baby has thrush around his bottom?


If your baby has anal thrush around the nappy area, you will see a red, spotty rash which spreads out from the anus. The spots often join together to form large red blotches which have distinct edges and which may be surrounded by smaller spotty patches.


What should I do if my baby has thrush around his nappy?


Talk to your health visitor, GP or pharmacist. You may need an anti-fungal nappy cream. Trying to give your baby some time without a nappy and exposing the skin to fresh air will help too.


How do I know if my baby has oral thrush?


Babies who have oral thrush usually have yellow or white spots or patches inside their cheeks, on the roof of the mouth or on their gums. If you touch them, the whiteness will usually rub off leaving a raw patch. You may also notice that the baby's saliva is a white colour. Babies with oral thrush may dribble more than usual.

Sometimes thrush doesn't seem to affect babies at all, but others may find the patches are sore and this can affect feeding.  You may find that your baby is fussier than usual about feeding, and he may start being reluctant to feed which can lead to poor weight gain.


What should I do if I think my baby has oral thrush?


You should talk to your midwife, health visitor or GP if you think that your baby has oral thrush. Generally most oral thrush will clear up anyway, but can be useful to get some help and advice. Your GP may prescribe medication if the thrush is upsetting your baby and leading to feeding problems.


How do I know if I have nipple thrush?


If your baby has oral thrush, this can be passed on to you.  Not everyone who gets nipple thrush will have symptoms, and it is important to be aware that painful or sore nipples can often occur if your baby isn't well positioned when breast-feeding and may not always indicate a thrush infection.

  • If you have nipple thrush, you may find that it is painful to feed your baby even if you haven't had any problems in the past.
  • You may feel a shooting pain, burning or itching in between feeds too.
  • Your nipples and the area around them may be sensitive, cracked, flaky, red or shiny


What should I do if I think I have nipple thrush?


You should talk to your midwife, health visitor or GP if you think you have nipple thrush. You will usually only need treatment if this is causing problems or is uncomfortable.  The most common treatment is an anti-fungal cream, or in more severe cases anti-fungal tablets.

How will I know if I have vaginal thrush and what should I do about it?

Vaginal thrush is very common and many women experience it at some point during their lives.  Symptoms include itchiness and irritation, there may be a stinging sensation when you pass urine and vaginal discharge. Pharmacies stock anti-thrush creams and pessaries, but if you are pregnant or breast-feeding it is advisable to visit your GP rather than buying an over-the-counter remedy.  There are also anti-thrush tablets which can have side-effects so are more often used if you have had recurrent bouts of thrush.

If you have any concerns about rashes or discomfort, or if you are experiencing problems feeding, you should always seek medical advice

 


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