What is Thrush?
Thrush, also known as candidiasis, is a yeast or fungal infection that occurs commonly among breastfeeding mothers. It is caused by a variety of fungus known as Candida Albicans. It may cause infection in the body, especially in the skin and mouth, but it is kept in check because of the presence of other ‘good’ bacteria in the body.
If the good bacteria present in the body decrease in number or are destroyed, then Candida Albicans starts overgrowing, leading to the formation of a white layer on the skin of the mouth and lips of infants and the breasts and nipple in a breastfeeding mother.
This is mostly due to the use of antibiotics by the mother for any infection. These antibiotics overpower the infection for which they are used, but along with that they also kill the good bacteria present in the body, allowing Candida to grow unchecked.
Thrush is a painful condition for the mother. Due to the pain, she may avoid feeding the baby. It might even lead to early weaning of the baby and prevent the baby from being fed, by making its mouth sore.
Signs And Symptoms In A Mother
The most common symptom faced by a mother when dealing with Thrush is a burning pain in the nipple. In addition to the pain, there is severe itching on the skin of the breast and nipple.
Apart from this, painful lumps can be felt all over the affected breast, or there can be pain present without the lumps. The nipple and the areola look paler than usual. The pain initially starts on one breast and later spreads to the other one as well.
Nipples are very sensitive to even the slightest touch; even showering and changing clothes hurt. The pain is often described as needle or razor sharp.
Pain is especially excruciating during the feedings and it may continue afterwards. Sometimes the breasts might not be the only areas of the body involved. It may start in the form of a vaginal thrush, due to the use of oral contraceptive pills for family planning or any other medical condition.
Signs And Symptoms In A Baby
The symptoms seen in a baby include a white coating in the mouth and tongue, a swollen tongue and sore mouth. Sometimes instead of a white layer, the baby may have spots. When removed, the spots tend to bleed. The white patch is surrounded by an area of redness of the skin.
This condition is very painful for the baby which makes it restless and irritated during the feedings. The baby may repeatedly pull away from the breast or refuse to feed altogether due to the pain.
Sometimes, Thrush might appear in the napkin region as a diaper rash. The baby’s bottom will look red or pink especially in the area covered by the diaper. It may be in the form of small, raised red spots or it can be in the form of a raised red area.
If the use of regular medication such as petroleum jelly or lotion does not clear the rash, then think of it as Thrush. Use of petroleum jelly might even make the rash worse since the fungus uses the oils found in petroleum jelly or lotion as a source of food.
The Risk Of Thrush
There are a number of different factors, other than the use of antibiotics that increase the risk of Thrush in both the mother and the baby.
In the baby, early weaning or shifting to bottled milk might increase the chances of a baby developing Thrush. The other risk factor is the use of pacifiers.
In the mother, there are some conditions that might increase the risk of developing Thrush. These conditions are associated with low immunity and include Diabetes Mellitus, use of steroids and contraception pills, and Anemia.
Prevention of Thrush
Wash your hands often, before and after every feeding, after changing the diaper of the baby or going to the washroom. Also, drink green tea to boost your immune system. Decrease the intake of foods with a high amount of sugar to reduce Candida infections.
Treatment And Care
The treatment for Thrush includes medication, creams, proper hygiene practices and dietary supplements. For medical treatment, always consult your physician so that you get appropriate drugs as well as anti-fungal creams to use on your breast. Always complete the medicine course to avoid recurrence, which is very high.
Proper hygiene consists of repeatedly washing hands after feeding the baby or changing diapers. Always keep your nipples dry and separate your towel from the rest of the family to avoid infections. Add half a cup of vinegar to your bath, as the acid can kill the bad bacteria.
While infected, eat a healthy diet and drink lots of water. Decrease the amount of sugar in your diet by decreasing the use of processed foods like juices, etc. as these might aggravate the infection. Limit giving bottled milk to your baby, as it might increase his chances of developing Thrush.
Probiotics consist of good bacteria and help in fighting against the bad and harmful bacteria; adding them to the baby’s diet may help to protect against Thrush. These include Lactobacillus as tablets or powder.
In case of infection in either the mother or the baby, both should be treated at the same time since chances of the other getting infected are very high. If the symptoms do not improve, persist or re-occur, consult your doctor for a change in medication.
Thrush is a common condition affecting both, the mother and the baby, worldwide. The best form of treatment is prevention aided by the use of proper hygiene and diet. These measures might not only protect from Candidiasis or Thrush but other diseases as well.