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  • Author: Mudra Kumar, MD, MRCP, FAAP; Chief Editor: Russell W Steele, MD  more...
Updated: Apr 29, 2016


First described by the French pediatrician Francois Valleix in 1838, thrush is an infection of the buccal cavity by Candida albicans. The disease is typically limited to infants and neonates, patients on antibiotics or steroids, and patients with polyendocrine disorders or underlying immune dysfunction. Thrush may be the first sign of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection; its appearance in advanced HIV indicates poor prognosis. Children on inhaled steroids also have increased incidence of oral candidiasis.



C albicans causes thrush when normal host immunity or normal host flora is disrupted. Overgrowth of yeast on the oral mucosa leads to desquamation of epithelial cells and accumulation of bacteria, keratin, and necrotic tissue. This debris combines to form a pseudomembrane, which may closely adhere to the mucosa. This membrane is usually not large but may rarely involve extensive areas of edema, ulceration, and necrosis of the underlying mucosa.

Affected neonates are typically colonized by C albicans during passage through the birth canal. Hence, the risk for thrush is increased when the mother has an active vaginal yeast infection. Other sources of transmission to neonates include colonized breasts (for breastfed infants), hands, and/or improperly cleaned bottle nipples. Kissing has also been implicated.

C albicans frequently and asymptomatically inhabits the GI tract of many children and adults, and the GI tract has been implicated as a reservoir for yeast contamination of the perineum. Thus, candidal diaper rash frequently occurs in conjunction with thrush.




United States

As many as 37% of newborns may develop thrush during the first months of life.


Thrush is universal and is more common in poorly nourished populations.


Thrush is usually a mild and self-limited illness, although it may cause discomfort sufficient to disrupt feeding in a newborn. Consider the possibility of an underlying immunodeficiency when thrush occurs after early infancy or without a reasonable explanation.


Thrush occurs equally in males and females.


Thrush is rare during the first week of life. Incidence peaks around the fourth week of life; thrush is uncommon in infants older than 6-9 months. Thrush can occur, however, at any age in predisposed patients.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Mudra Kumar, MD, MRCP, FAAP Professor of Pediatrics, Course Director, Course 6 MSII, Preclerkship Director, Clinical Integration, Department of Pediatrics, University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine

Mudra Kumar, MD, MRCP, FAAP is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American Society of Hematology, American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Mary L Windle, PharmD Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Russell W Steele, MD Clinical Professor, Tulane University School of Medicine; Staff Physician, Ochsner Clinic Foundation

Russell W Steele, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association of Immunologists, American Pediatric Society, American Society for Microbiology, Infectious Diseases Society of America, Louisiana State Medical Society, Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society, Society for Pediatric Research, Southern Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Leonard R Krilov, MD Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and International Adoption, Vice Chair, Department of Pediatrics, Winthrop University Hospital; Professor of Pediatrics, Stony Brook University School of Medicine

Leonard R Krilov, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American Pediatric Society, Infectious Diseases Society of America, Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society, Society for Pediatric Research

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Leslie L Barton, MD Professor Emerita of Pediatrics, University of Arizona College of Medicine

Leslie L Barton, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, Association of Pediatric Program Directors, Infectious Diseases Society of America, and Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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White plaques are present on the buccal mucosa and the undersurface of the tongue and represent thrush. When wiped off, the plaques leave red erosive areas. Courtesy of Matthew C. Lambiase, DO.
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