Rhonda Patt

Ask the Doctor: What is thrush?

Thrush is treated with anti-fungal medication.
Thrush is treated with anti-fungal medication. Getty Images/iStockphoto

I am a breast-feeding mother of a two-month old daughter. I have recently started having nipple pain during feedings and have heard that this may mean that my daughter has thrush. What is thrush and how do I know if she has it?

Thrush is a term used to describe an overgrowth of yeast (Candida albicans) in the mouth. It is normal to have yeast in your mouth and digestive tract; however, overgrowth of the organism can lead to thrush.

An infant's oral thrush can cause a breastfeeding mother to have a yeast infection of her nipples. Signs of this in the mother include red, cracked nipples and pain during breastfeeding. When an infant has thrush, she will have white patches in her mouth- along her inner cheeks and gumline. Keep in mind that white coating on the tongue is a normal finding for infants and is not a sign of thrush.

Thrush is treated with anti-fungal medication. Typically, an infant will be prescribed oral nystatin to be painted on the affected area several times a day until it clears. Mothers can apply topical clotrimazole (over-the-counter) or nystatin (prescription) to her nipples to treat her skin infection. If mom's symptoms are not improving after several days of treatment, she should contact her physician for medical evaluation.

Pacifiers and bottle nipples will need to be sterilized daily until the infection clears to prevent re-infection.