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Thrush is a yeast infection in the mouth and throat of babies. It occurs in 2 to 5 percent of babies and is more common in premature babies. Thrush is usually caused by the organism Candida albicans, a common organism in adults. Babies usually contract the organism from the mother's body during delivery and may develop thrush as early as 2 weeks old. The yeast is common in the environment. It only causes a problem when it grows in warm, moist environments.
Thrush appears as white patches inside the baby's mouth and on the tongue and lips. Some babies have no symptoms of thrush while others have pain and fussiness and may refuse to feed. Babies with oral yeast infections may also develop a diaper rash caused by the same organism.
Treatment of thrush depends on whether the infection is causing a problem for the baby. A mother breastfeeding a baby with thrush may also develop the infection on her nipples, which may cause pain. Treatment for oral thrush in breastfed babies should include treatment of the mother's nipples. The most effective treatment for thrush is an antifungal medication. A simple, yet often effective, treatment is with a purple medication called gentian violet, which is painted inside the baby's mouth.
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