We usually associate yeast infections with adults, more so women. But did you know that yeast infection in children (even babies) is quite common?
How can you tell if you child has a yeast infection? What’s the difference between a yeast infection in children and nappy rash? We bring you the answers to these questions and more!
Yeast infection in children: A guide for all parents
All of us have yeast or fungus called Candida, in our bodies. It is present in the intestines, mouth and the skin.
When external factors like antibiotics, irritation, friction or even stress come into play, they can cause an imbalance in the microbial environment. This leads to an over production of Candida, leading to yeast infection.
It can also occur when parts of the body are left wet and moist. That’s why most toddlers and infants are prone to yeast infection in their armpit, mouth, neck and diaper area. This also affects their buttocks and thighs.
But essentially you will notice four types of yeast infection, two specific to toddlers and infants.
What are the types of yeast infection in children?
Based on their age and their ability to fight infection, children are affected by yeast infections up to a certain degree. For instance, since toddlers and infants wear diapers, their groin and genital area is particularly susceptible to this infection. But it can heal with over-the-counter medicines.
For preschoolers and older children on the other hand, thrush on the mouth and throat as well as genital yeast infection is pretty common.
Here are the most common types of yeast infection in children:
1. Thrush (Oropharyngeal Candidiasis)
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As you know, newborns and infants have a sterile digestive system. This means no bacteria is lined in their intestines and their immune systems are not activated. It is not until they are breastfed that the colostrum helps them develop immunity.
But in the absence of this immunity, they can develop a mouth and throat yeast infection called thrush. It is most common in newborns and toddlers and sometimes even the elderly whose immunities are low.
Its symptoms include the following:
- White and yellow patches on the baby’s tongue, gums, lips, palate and cheeks
- Redness around the mouth as well as the throat
- Cracked mouth corners
- Pain while swallowing breast milk
2. Genital Yeast Infection (Genital Candidiasis)
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This type of yeast infection is common in older children, especially those close to puberty. Of course, it is also common in adults (especially women).
This happens when too much Candida grows in the vulva. This could be due to a weakened immune system, use of diaper, unhygienic upkeep, use of certain medicines and even diabetes.
Some of the common symptoms of this type of infection include:
- Itching and irritation around the vagina
- Redness and even swelling around the genital area
- Pain and burning sensation, especially when the child pees
- Pain in the stomach
3. Diaper rash from a yeast infection
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As the name suggests, this is a common issue with toddlers and even some preschoolers. Many times, parents mistake a yeast infection for a small diaper rash.
A diaper rash is usually caused when a wet soiled diaper is left on the baby for a long period of time. But if you have tried treated the rash with a diaper rash cream or home remedies and it still persists, then it could be a yeast infection.
You must watch out for the following symptoms to be sure:
- The rash doesn’t go away with any diaper rash cream or home remedy.
- The infected area is red and has red bumps and dots all around it.
- The irritation is on both legs where the diaper touches the skin fold.
4. Invasive Candidiasis
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When the candida or the fungus enters the body through the blood stream, it can infect the heart, brain, bones as well as the eyes. This can lead to a fatal infection.
Now this is not common in children, but it can occur in rare cases, especially if the child has been in and out of the hospital often.
Some of the common symptoms of this life-threatening type of yeast infection include the following:
- Constant fever and chills
- Accompanied by other medical conditions like diabetes and a weakened immune system
- Weakness in the body
Doctors can treat all these types of yeast infections in children using anti-fungal medications. However, as always, prevention is the key.
How to prevent yeast infection in children
One of the first things that the doctor will do is to prescribe antibiotics. However, its frequent use can kill ‘good’ bacteria in the body. So in order to prevent the infection from happening in the first place, here are a few things you can do at home:
- Check all the pacifiers. Make sure you keep all the pacifiers at home clean. Old pacifiers are ideal places for fungus to breed so its best to sterilise them and boil them for five minutes each time before use.
- Replace old bottle nipples. Similar to pacifiers, old nipples are also wet and moist. So you must always try to keep them dry and sterilised before use. If this is not done properly, it can lead to thrush or mouth and throat infection in a baby.
- Keep the baby dry. As a rule, you must keep you baby dry and clean at all times. This means mandatory diaper changes after every three hours and drying his bottoms so there is no wetness before he wears a fresh diaper.
- Sterilise his clothes. Once every two weeks, make sure to wash his clothes in a baby-friendly sterilising solution. This will help remove any bacteria living on the clothes. Sometimes new clothes can already be infected and washing them before making your baby wear them can be a good option.
- Clean toilets. If your child is slightly older, make sure to teach them how to clean themselves up after every tinkle. This is especially necessary when they start going to school and use public toilets.
- No tight clothing. Avoid buying tight clothes for your kids. Make sure they are always dressed in cottons when the weather is hot and not in synthetic fabric. Most synthetics become extremely moist with perspiration and make for the perfect breeding place for yeast, especially in case of undergarments.
If the infection continues and none of these preventive measure work, you may have to rush your child to a specialist.
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What is the treatment for yeast infection in children?
Most specialists prescribe the antibiotic nystatin for children who are suffering from thrush or a Candida-related diaper rash. While for a vaginal yeast infection, your child might be prescribed anti-fungal medications like clotrimazole or miconazole.
Apart from these, you can also try some home remedies.
- Tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is known for its anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. For this purpose, boil 1/2 cup of water and let it cool. Now add three to five drops of tea tree oil and apply it to the infected area. Do not use it in its pure form. It is highly concentrated and can even burn the area. It’s best to avoid this treatment on the genital area.
- Yogurt. You can also use some good old yogurt to heal yeast infection. Plain yogurt has good bacteria (lactobacillus acidophilus) that stops more fungus from spreading through the body. Give it to your kids with each of their meals. You can even dab it on to the infected parts.
- Baking soda. Make a mixture of 1 tbsp baking soda and 1 cup of water. Dab this mixture onto your child’s infected area. It will show results in less than a week, if you do this regularly.
- Apple cider vinegar. You can also use apple cider vinegar to counter a yeast infection in your children. Fill a cup with some warm water and add a cup of apple cider vinegar. Dab this mixture onto the infected area for a week. Apple cider vinegar is also known to have anti-fungal properties. However, it is strong so if it burns or irritates, make sure to discontinue its use.
Remember that yeast infection is not fatal and if you take necessary precautions you can easily bring it under control within a day or so. However, yes, it is uncomfortable for kids to live with this infection. So talk to your health care provider if the problem persists.
Sources: webmd, medicinenet
Republished with permission from: theAsianParent Singapore