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Understand oral thrush: Symptoms, causes, and treatment options

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Oral thrush is fairly common among babies and toddlers, particularly those who have weak immune systems. Though not overly serious, you need to diagnose and treat oral thrush as soon as you notice it to prevent it getting worse. Here, we look at the common symptoms and causes of oral thrush, and explain the best way to treat it with the help of your doctor.

How do you get oral thrush?

Oral thrush is a yeast infection that is most common in babies and toddlers, though adults can also develop oral thrush from time to time.

Anyone can get oral thrush, as it can occur when a fungus grows in your mouth. It's not necessarily caused by poor oral or dental hygiene. That being said, babies and toddlers with weaker immune systems are more susceptible to oral thrush than those with stronger immunity.

For most children, oral thrush isn't serious, but it does need to be diagnosed and treated. As many babies and toddlers can't explain their symptoms, the onus is usually on the parents to discover oral thrush and report it to a doctor for treatment. 

Oral thrush symptoms to look out for 

When in the early stages of oral thrush, you might not notice any symptoms in your baby or toddler. That being said, they might cry more than often, as oral thrush in babies may cause discomfort. Still, some of the common signs of oral thrush in adults or babies can include the following symptoms:

☑️ Oral thrush on the lips can show as small white or yellow spots.

☑️ Oral thrush on the tongue may appear white or yellow. You might even notice a particularly bad taste in your mouth.

☑️ Another potential indication of oral thrush is cracked skin at the corners of the mouth.

☑️ You may also experience soreness or slight discomfort in your mouth.

The same fungus that leads to oral thrush can cause infections in other parts of your body. Typically, oral thrush can be easily treated by a doctor, as we explain below.


How to treat oral thrush?

Oral thrush treatment is widely available and easy to access via a prescription. Depending on where you live and what medicine is available, your doctor may prescribe Diflucan or Sporanox, or any other antifungal medications to treat oral flush.

For most babies and toddlers, oral thrush treatment goes away after a few days or a few weeks, depending on how serious it is.

But even after completing the treatment, you may notice that oral thrush returns. If this occurs, you need to contact your doctor again.

Though oral thrush treatment over the counter is available, we advise you to schedule a consultation with your doctor, who can advise on the best medication and treatment.

Are there any home remedies for oral thrush?

Very mild cases of oral thrush may go away on their own or with some simple home remedies. If you're an adult with oral thrush, there are some home remedies that you can try, but we advise you to speak to a pediatrician before using a home remedy for your children.

Some potential home remedies for oral thrush include:

  • Salt water: Salt is naturally antiseptic and soothing, and can be added to water to treat many oral afflictions. While it might not fully remove the yeast infection, it can certainly help.

  • Probiotics: Probiotics - such as natural yogurt - can help to treat oral flush, but again, they can't kill the infection.

  • Citrus: Lemon juice also has some antiseptic qualities and may help to fight against the fungus that causes oral flush. You can also drink lemon tea to soothe your mouth and throat.

  • Clove oil: Clove oil has been used for generations for its medicinal properties. As clove oil consists of eugenol, it may be effective in treating oral thrush.

Please remember that these home remedies might be successful as treatment for oral thrush in adults, but they might not be sufficient and you may need to contact your doctor for a prescription. Always check with a pediatrician before attempting any home remedy for your child.

The bottom line

Oral thrush is a relatively common infection among babies and toddlers, but adults can also get it from time to time. Though not serious, oral thrush can be uncomfortable and it can lead to an unpleasant taste in the mouth.

The best course of action if you suspect that you or your child has oral thrush is to contact a doctor, who will officially diagnose it. Then, the doctor may prescribe antifungal medication that should help to clear the thrush within a week or so.


Q1: How long does oral thrush last without treatment?

Although some mild cases of oral thrush can go away without treatment, you typically need to take your prescribed medication to get rid of the infection. Most cases of oral thrush should then go in 1-2 weeks at most.

Q2: Is oral thrush contagious?

Though the infection doesn't spread from person to person, the candida fungus can transfer via saliva. So, avoid kissing your partner if you have oral thrush.

Q3: Oral thrush vs normal tongue - how to tell if you have it?

Most people with oral thrush notice white spots or patches on their tongue. So, even though thrush can develop without symptoms, you can check the color of your tongue in the mirror as an early indication of the infection.

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