Thrush is an infection of the mouth and tongue caused by the yeast Candida albicans. The infection is common in babies and young children who are otherwise healthy and for whom thrush is usually not a serious problem.

Thrush on the mouth and tongue looks like white patches similar to cottage cheese or milk curds. When the patches are wiped away, the area underneath appears red and raw and may bleed. In babies, thrush may also result in a rash in the diaper area when the yeast is excreted.

Thrush sometimes occurs in people who are taking antibiotics or other medicines that upset the body's natural balance of microbes.

Thrush may also be seen in frail older adults, pregnant women (because of hormonal changes), and people who have impaired immune systems, such as those infected with HIV.

In healthy people, most cases of thrush are very mild and require little or no treatment. But thrush can be a problem for people who are seriously ill. In these cases, the yeast may spread to the blood and cause serious, widespread infection. Treatment with antifungal medicine is needed to keep the infection from persisting or spreading.

Last Updated: March 10, 2008

Author: Maria G. Essig, MS, ELS

Medical Review: Michael J. Sexton, MD - Pediatrics & Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics

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