Thrush (Oral Candida Infection) (Child)

Adult hand giving infant liquid medication from dropper into mouth.

Candida is a type of fungus. It's found naturally on the skin and in the mouth. If candida grows out of control, it can cause a mouth infection called thrush. Thrush is common in infants and children. It may occur in a young child who uses a pacifier frequently. It's more likely in children who have weakened immune systems, have taken antibiotics, or use inhaled corticosteroids, such as for asthma.

The main symptom of thrush is having white or yellow velvety patches in the mouth. The patches can't be washed away. They may be very painful.

In a healthy child, thrush isn't usually serious. It can be treated with antifungal medicine.

Home care

  • Antifungal medicine for thrush is often given as a liquid or pills. Follow the healthcare provider's instructions for giving this medicine to your child. 

  • Breastfeeding mothers may develop thrush on their nipples. If you breastfeed, both you and your child should be treated to prevent passing the infection back and forth.

  • Wash your hands well with clean, running water and soap before and after caring for your child. Have your child wash their hands often.

  • If your child uses a pacifier, boil it for 5 to 10 minutes at least once a day.

  • Thoroughly wash drinking cups using warm water and soap after each use.

  • If your child takes inhaled corticosteroids, have your child rinse their mouth after taking the medicine. Also ask the child's healthcare provider about using a spacer, which can help lessen the risk for thrush.

  • Unless their provider instructs otherwise, your child can go to school or daycare.

Follow-up care

Follow up as advised by your child's provider. Persistent candida infections may be a sign of another medical problem. Tell your child's provider if symptoms return after treatment.

When to get medical advice

Unless your child's health care provider advises otherwise, call the provider right away if:

  • Your child has a fever (see "Fever and children" below)

  • Your child stops eating or drinking

  • Pain continues or increases

  • The infection gets worse

  • Symptoms get worse or new symptoms start

Fever and children

Use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature. Don’t use a mercury thermometer. There are different kinds and uses of digital thermometers. They include:

  • Rectal. For children younger than 3 years, a rectal temperature is the most accurate.

  • Forehead (temporal). This works for children age 3 months and older. If a child under 3 months old has signs of illness, this can be used for a first pass. The provider may want to confirm with a rectal temperature.

  • Ear (tympanic). Ear temperatures are accurate after 6 months of age, but not before.

  • Armpit (axillary). This is the least reliable but may be used for a first pass to check a child of any age with signs of illness. The provider may want to confirm with a rectal temperature.

  • Mouth (oral). Don’t use a thermometer in your child’s mouth until they are at least 4 years old.

Use the rectal thermometer with care. Follow the product maker’s directions for correct use. Insert it gently. Label it and make sure it’s not used in the mouth. It may pass on germs from the stool. If you don’t feel OK using a rectal thermometer, ask the healthcare provider what type to use instead. When you talk with any healthcare provider about your child’s fever, tell them which type you used.

Below are guidelines to know if your young child has a fever. Your child’s healthcare provider may give you different numbers for your child. Follow your provider’s specific instructions.

Fever readings for a baby under 3 months old:

  • First, ask your child’s healthcare provider how you should take the temperature.

  • Rectal or forehead: 100.4°F (38°C) or higher

  • Armpit: 99°F (37.2°C) or higher

Fever readings for a child age 3 months to 36 months (3 years):

  • Rectal, forehead, or ear: 102°F (38.9°C) or higher

  • Armpit: 101°F (38.3°C) or higher

Call the healthcare provider in these cases:

  • Repeated temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher in a child of any age

  • Fever of 100.4° (38°C) or higher in baby younger than 3 months

  • Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under age 2

  • Fever that lasts for 3 days in a child age 2 or older

© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
Powered by Krames Patient Education - A Product of StayWell