Yeast infections can occur in all age groups, from the very young to the very old. In babies, the most common ailments caused by yeast are diaper rash and a type of fungal infection in the mouth and throat called oral thrush. Rarely, a baby can develop a more serious yeast infection in the bloodstream or other organs. Symptoms depend on the type of infection and range from mild, local irritation to life-threatening illness in rare cases.
Diaper Rash and Similar Skin Infections
A type of fungus called Candida commonly causes yeast infections in babies. These infections most often occur when the skin's defenses break down, causing Candida that normally sits on the surface to enter the skin. They are more likely to occur in the diaper area, especially in association with diarrhea. As a baby drools or dribbles, areas around the mouth and under the chin also become susceptible. Candida skin infections typically appear as bright red patches, sometimes with surrounding red bumps called satellite lesions. These rashes can be painful, and infants with diaper rash may be fussy, especially around diaper changes. Diaper rashes and similar skin infections caused by yeast are usually easily treated with antifungal creams and ointments.
Another common type of yeast infection that occurs frequently in babies is oral thrush. This appears as white patches in a baby’s mouth. These patches may appear on the tongue, roof of the mouth or inside of the cheeks. They are usually difficult to remove, unlike formula or breast milk that may coat the tongue. With thrush, bleeding may occur if the patches are wiped off. A baby may also have some discomfort or difficulty eating as a result of oral thrush. An antifungal solution may be prescribed to treat oral thrush.
Once in the bloodstream, yeast infections can spread to multiple organs of the body, like the heart, liver or brain, and cause serious problems. These infections tend to occur in infants who have a weakened immune system and who are already hospitalized for another reason. Babies most at risk include premature infants, those with a low weight at birth, babies with bladder catheters and those receiving long-term antibiotics or chemotherapy. Signs and symptoms may include low or high temperature, poor feeding, irregular breathing or low blood pressure. Though rare, yeast infections in the blood are very serious. They are a major cause of death in settings such as the neonatal intensive care unit, according to a 2011 article in "Early Human Development."
Warnings and Precautions
Contact your doctor if you think your baby has any yeast infection. If your baby is having difficulty eating, seek immediate medical attention. Also obtain immediate medical care if your baby has a temperature greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, is listless, has abnormal breathing or is difficult to awaken.