How to Treat Thrush

Four Parts:Treating Thrush with Prescription MedicationsTreating People that Commonly Develop ThrushUsing Natural RemediesPreventing Future Oral Candidiasis Infections

Thrush is caused by an overgrowth of a type of yeast, called candida albicans. The medical term for a thrush infection is called oral candidiasis. While candida is part of your body’s natural organisms, sometimes the normal balance gets disrupted, making it easy for the yeast cells to grow. Oral candidiasis causes white, creamy-looking patches on your tongue and inner cheek. The patches can spread to other areas, including your throat, gums, the roof of the mouth, and even your esophagus. It’s best to seek medical treatment if you develop thrush. Home treatment options are also available.

Part 1
Treating Thrush with Prescription Medications

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    Know what causes thrush. Thrush, or oral candidiasis, is caused by an overgrowth of a type of fungus, or yeast, called candida albicans. Candida is a normal part of the body.[1]
    • Candida albicans is naturally found throughout the gastrointestinal tract, including the mouth. Candida is also a normal resident of the skin.[2]
    • A thrush infection happens when the candida albicans yeast cells find a source of nutrients they like, and grow beyond what is considered normal.[3]
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    Recognize the symptoms. White, patchy areas on the tongue, and other parts of the mouth are the most common symptom.[4]
    • Additional symptoms include inflamed, or reddened, areas in the mouth, accompanied by soreness. This can cause a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, and a loss of taste.[5]
    • Some areas might bleed slightly if they are scraped.[6]
    • Cracking, itching and pain at the corners of the mouth is common with oral thrush.[7]
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    See a doctor to get diagnosed. Understand the risks of untreated thrush infections. Candidiasis infection, like thrush, left untreated can result in serious health problems.[8]
    • Candida is normally present on the skin, and throughout the gut, and causes no health problems.[9]
    • However, when an overgrowth occurs, it is important to treat the condition before it spreads further, and gains access to the systemic circulation. A systemic candidiasis infections is called invasive candidiasis.[10]
    • Realize the seriousness of an invasive candidiasis infection. Invasive candidiasis is an infection that occurs when the candida infection spreads into the systemic circulation, called candidemia.[11]
    • This type of infection is a serious condition, and can affect the blood, heart, brain, eyes, bones, as well as other parts of the body.[12]
    • People with weaker immune systems are the ones primarily at risk of developing invasive candidiasis. This type of infection requires hospitalization, involves added expense, and, in some cases, results in less than desirable outcomes.[13]
    • Invasive candidiasis is a major type of infection acquired by patients being treated in a hospital or facility setting for other reasons.[14]
    • See a doctor early. Seeking medical attention early and taking a prescription medication are the best ways to effectively manage the initial symptoms of a candida infection.[15]
    • This is the most effective approach to prevent invasive candidiasis and candidemia.[16]
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    Have a healthcare professional evaluate symptoms in otherwise healthy people. It is somewhat rare to see oral thrush in healthy children, adolescents, and adults. But anyone can develop thrush, and the infection is easily treated.[17]
    • Since this condition is considered unusual in healthy people, there may be an underlying cause for the thrush to have developed.[18]
    • In addition, some conditions may look like candida, such as oral cancers or precancerous conditions, so make sure to see you doctor if you are haven't had thrush before or if it does not go away with treatment.
    • It is recommended that cases of thrush be evaluated by a doctor to provide both effective treatment, and to be sure there is no change in the person’s overall immune system.[19]
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    Take prescription antifungal medication. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, thrush, or candida, infections that develop in the mouth or throat require the use of prescription medications for effective treatment.[20]
    • The exact medications and the length of treatment will vary depending on the person’s age, general health status, currently prescribed medications, and immune system strength.[21]
    • Make sure that you complete the full prescribed course of medication, or else the thrush may return.
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    Apply topical prescription medications. Treating oral candidiasis is often done by using a product that can be applied topically. This is especially true for infants and young children.[22]
    • Liquid products, such as nystatin oral suspension, are applied topically by either swabbing, or “painting”, the suspension onto the surfaces infected. Nystatin is effective at treating the infection, and is safe if swallowed.[23]
    • In addition to using liquid forms, antifungal creams, ointments, and oral doses such as troches, deliver the medication in a topical manner.[24]
    • Use dissolvable prescription products. Some products are made in dissolvable forms, called troches, that are placed in the mouth to dissolve.[25]
    • This method of administration allows the medication to come into direct contact with the infected areas.[26]
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    Take prescribed oral dosage forms. In some cases, the medication may be prescribed in a tablet, capsule, or liquid form, that is intended to be swallowed.[27]
    • The antifungal medication works through systemic absorption, just like taking an antibiotic.[28]
    • Some examples of medications prescribed to treat thrush include fluconazole, nystatin, itraconazole, clotrimazole, ketoconazole, posacanazole, and miconazole.[29]
    • These medications can interact with other medications, so be sure to tell your doctor what medications you conditions you have. They can also have side effects, so call your doctor if you develop any new symptoms while taking these medications.

Part 2
Treating People that Commonly Develop Thrush

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    Know what to watch for if you are breast feeding. Infants that develop a thrush infections typically have the white, patchy, lesions, in their mouth. They may have trouble feeding, and be more fussy and irritable.[30]
    • The infant can pass the infection to the mother, then they continue to pass it back and forth, until the infection is effectively treated.[31]
    • The mother’s breasts can become unusually sensitive and reddened, with cracked and itchy nipples. The circular area around the nipple, called the areola, can turn shiny, with flaky skin areas.[32]
    • The mother may experience pain during nursing or notice pain in the nipple area between feedings. The discomfort may also feel like stabbing pains deeper within the breast.[33]
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    Seek treatment for you and your baby. Tell your doctor if your baby has a diaper rash also, as candida may also cause a diaper rash, and your baby may need different treatment for this. If your doctor considers the case to be mild, he or she may recommend just using good hygiene measures, and watching the areas in both baby and mom for a few days.[34]
    • Treat the baby. If treatment is warranted, the medications can be easily and safely applied.[35]
    • In many cases, an antifungal product called nystatin suspension, can be prescribed. This is a liquid medication that can be applied directly into the baby’s mouth to the areas involved.
    • The applications are often recommended several times a day for about a week.[36]
    • Treat mom. To allow the mother to continue breast feeding and disrupt the cycle of passing the infection back and forth, the same medication, or a similar one, may be prescribed.
    • Topical antifungal creams or ointments are applied to the affected areas of the nipple on mom’s breast. Applications are usually recommended several times a day, for about a week, until both baby and mom are symptom free.[37]
    • You may also want to consider using disposable nursing pads to avoid passing the infection to your clothing.[38]
    • Talk to your doctor about cleaning or boiling items such as bottles and nipples, pacifiers and any detachable parts of a breast pump to reduce the chance of the infection coming back.
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    Identify other people at risk. People that are diabetic, are prescribed inhaled corticosteroids, take certain types of antibiotics, and people that wear dentures, develop oral thrush infections more often than otherwise healthy adults.[39]
    • Some people with serious illnesses that involve weakened immune systems more commonly experience oral candidiasis.[40]
    • These groups include people with HIV or AIDS, people receiving cancer treatments, and people that have had organ transplants.[41]
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    Seek treatment immediately if you have an underlying condition. Make an appointment as soon as possible to have the thrush infection evaluated and treated.[42]
    • The doctor will choose the appropriate prescription medications based on the overall health and existing medications of the person with thrush.[43]
    • People that are elderly, have asthma or COPD, and people with weakened immune systems require quick intervention to prevent the thrush from spreading into their bloodstream.
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    Start prescription medications. The at-risk groups are more challenging to treat since most are already taking a combination of medications that can sometimes interact with antifungal drugs.
    • The doctors know how to properly combine the antifungal medications needed, with their current prescribed drugs, to quickly and effectively treat the thrush infection.[44]
    • In some cases, intravenous therapy and hospitalization may be the safest course of action.[45]

Part 3
Using Natural Remedies

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    Talk to your doctor about natural or herbal remedies. One scientific research study looked for evidence of efficacy for natural and herbal products claiming efficacy in treating oral candidiasis. Unfortunately, the researchers were not able to find any evidence to support the claims.[46]
    • This does not mean the natural and herbal products do not work. The study results suggest that further studies, following proper scientific research methods, are warranted in order to show efficacy for these treatment approaches.[47]
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    Use warm saltwater oral rinses. When you have a thrush infection, warm saltwater rinses may provide some relief.[48]
    • Ask your dentist or doctor about using saltwater rinses to be sure it is the best option for you.[49]
    • To make a saltwater rinse, dissolve ½ teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of warm water.
    • Swish the rinse around in your mouth. Be sure to spit out the rinse and avoid swallowing it. Repeat this several times a day.[50]
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    Take probiotics. Scientific research has shown that probiotics containing the lactobacilli species can help to control the overgrowth of candida albicans in some situations.[51]
    • The study authors recommend additional research in this area, but the initial work done in a controlled research setting was promising.[52]
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    Take lactobacillus acidophilus. The scientific literature suggests this to be possibly helpful in treating thrush. However, products available are not adequately regulated and exact dosing recommendations are not available.[53]
    • Talk to your doctor about specific products or sources, recommended by him or her, to treat thrush in this manner.[54]
    • Yogurt containing live or active cultures of the lactobacilli species are difficult to find. Yogurt products are now required to undergo processes like pasteurization that kills the live cultures.
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    Apply gentian violet. If you choose to try gentian violet, talk with your doctor first, then proceed carefully. Since safer and easier products are available, using gentian violet is often considered to be unfavorable option.
    • Gentian violet is effective in the topical treatment of fungal infections, including oral candidiasis, but the product is difficult to use. The product should not be swallowed, and will stain the skin and clothing.[55]
    • Side effects of gentian violet include redness, and irritation at the site where it is applied. Gentian violet should not be swallowed. Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting can result. If gentian violet is swallowed, call a poison control center.[56]
    • One study found that gentian violet applied topically using a 0.00165% product was somewhat effective at treating oral thrush and did not stain the affected areas.[57]

Part 4
Preventing Future Oral Candidiasis Infections

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    Practice good oral hygiene. See your dentist regularly, and follow recommendations provided by your dentist or your regular doctor.[58]
    • General recommendations to prevent thrush infections include brushing your teeth at least twice each day, floss once a day, and never share your toothbrush.[59]
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    Consider changing to a toothbrush that is easier to manipulate. Some people have trouble reaching all areas of their mouth with a regular toothbrush.[60]
    • Talk with your dentist about switching to an electric toothbrush if this will help you to more effectively clean your teeth.[61]
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    Replace your toothbrush often. If you have recently had a thrush infection, you may want to replace your toothbrush several times.[62]
    • Use new toothbrushes, and discard any contaminated ones, until you are comfortable that the infection has been effectively treated, and your new toothbrush has not been contaminated.[63]
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    Avoid using mouthwash. Some mouthwashes and rinses can alter the normal flora in your mouth, and allow for the candida infection to get started more easily.[64]
    • Talk to your dentist to be sure. Many dentists recommend the use of mouthwashes and mouth rinses.[65]
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    Pay attention to your diet. Sugary foods, and foods and beverages that contain yeast, can encourage the growth of candida.
    • Limit the amounts of these foods that you eat or drink, and be sure to brush your teeth after eating.[66]
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    Clean dentures every day. People that wear dentures at a higher risk of developing oral thrush infections.[67]
    • Your dentist can suggest different products and equipment to use in cleaning your dentures if this is happening to you.[68]
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    Check your blood sugar regularly if you are diabetic. By maintaining tight control of your blood sugar levels, you can reduce the amounts of excess sugars that are found in your saliva.[69]
    • This helps to limit the sugary food source in your mouth area that helps the candida yeast to grow.[70]
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    Use a prescription strength mouth rinse if you are having cancer treatments. Research has provided good evidence that this can help reduce the risk of oral candidiasis infections in people receiving cancer treatments.[71]
    • The most commonly prescribed prescription strength mouth rinse contains a solution of 0.12% chlorhexidine gluconate.[72]
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    Rinse your mouth after using an inhaled corticosteroid product. Some people with lung conditions, like asthma and COPD, regularly use inhaled corticosteroids.[73] If you can, use a spacer (or aerochamber) attached to your inhaler. This greatly reduces oral thrush from using inhaled corticosteroids. Both children and adults should use spacers. In addition, they help the medication go deeper into the lungs instead of to the back of the mouth.
    • People that use these products can reduce their risk for getting thrush by rinsing their mouth with water, or a doctor recommended mouth rinse, after each use of their inhaler.[74]


  • Thrush refers to only oral infections caused by an overgrowth of candida albicans.
  • Vaginal yeast infections are caused by the same fungal overgrowth, but oral infections do not usually occur along with a vaginal yeast infection.
  • Treat vaginal yeast infections promptly and effectively, especially if you are pregnant.[75] Promptly treating an overgrowth of yeast in the vaginal area helps to keep the natural candida in your body in balance.
  • Over-the-counter products are effective at treating vaginal yeast infections. It is always best to see your doctor to check your symptoms and verify the type of infection you have.
  • Men can get yeast infections from having sex with a women that has a vaginal candida infection. Over-the-counter products are effective in treating men as well as women. Check your doctor for treatment recommendations.

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Categories: Women’s Health | Fungal Diseases