EXPERT ADVICE: What are those white spots on my baby's tongue?

Follow our expert advice to protect your child from an oral yeast infection.

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If your baby has white or yellowish-white spots on their tongue or in their mouth, along with include with a reduced appetite and drooling, they might be suffering from oral thrush, also known as a yeast/fungal infection.

Dr Mary Varughese, a consultant at the National University Hospital’s Division of General Ambulatory Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, notes that unlike milk curds on bubba’s tongue — which are common right after feeding — the white yeast spots aren’t so easy to clear up. When you do so, the surface of your kewpie’s tongue may appear red, raw and may sometimes even bleed.

Oral thrush infections are more common among 1- to 2-month-old young infants — the fungus may get trapped in bub’s mouth or skin as they make their way through the birth canal and your vagina during delivery. It can affect around 5 to 10 per cent of otherwise healthy young infants.

Oral thrush infections are common among 1- to 2-month-old young infants... It can affect around 5 to 10 per cent of otherwise healthy young infants.

To protect your child’s developing immunity from infections, it’s important to keep your babycare items — such as pacifiers, bottles and teetherswell sterilised. This is because bacteria and fungus such as candida can grow and thrive on these items, which causes your child to get an oral yeast infection when they pop it into their mouths.

That said, this fungus can stay in your kewpie’s mouth/skin mouth or on their skin without causing major problems, assures Dr Varughese. She has expert advice to help you and your kewpie deal with this common ailment...

What causes oral thrush in babies?

For some babies, an overgrowth of candida may occur because the baby’s immune system is still immature. Another possible cause is if either the baby or the breastfeeding mother has been taking antibiotic medication, the medication can kill off healthy bacteria that controls the levels of candida in the baby and the mother.

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How do I prevent the infection?

Certainly, parents and children should avoid taking antibiotics unnecessarily. Also make sure to regularly sterilise all baby’s pacifiers and mouth toys, in addition to all feeding and breast pump equipment, especially the teats.

Nursing mothers can also avoid fungus growing keeping your breasts clean and drying theisr bras and breast pads in the sun as fungus thrives in warm moist environments,

Is it true that both mother and baby can infect each other with a yeast infection?

Yes, it’s true. If the breastfeeding mother experiences nipple pain, burning, itching and has red, cracked, flaky nipples, she will require treatment. An antifungal cream will be applied to each nipple after feeding, for about two weeks. If the breast infection is more severe, she may be prescribed antifungal tablets as well. Good hand hygiene is vital during this period to prevent spreading.

As for baby, an antifungal medication is applied with a dropper to either side of the mouth and other affected areas, four times a day ― the treatment continues for about two weeks or until symptoms go away. Be sure to apply after feeding, so that it stays in the mouth for a longer period of time.

“Older babies or children who experience persistent or unexplained recurrent oral thrush should be evaluated by their doctor for possible immune system deficiencies.”

Is it safe to continue breastfeeding while getting treatment?

Yes, it is important to continue breastfeeding while both mother and baby are receiving treatment for thrush. If the breast is sore and feeding is extremely painful, taking some painkillers may help the mother during nursing.

Can an untreated thrush infection lead to any adverse health conditions for mother and baby?

For most healthy mothers and babies, complications of thrush are rare. Adverse effects generally revolve around feeding. Older babies or children who experience persistent or unexplained recurrent oral thrush should be evaluated by their doctor for possible immune system deficiencies.

Photos: iStock

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