Gentian violet, a purple dye with antifungal and antibacterial properties, has been extensively used to treat a variety of ailments since it was introduced as an antiseptic in 1891. This widely available, topical solution is still commonly used to treat oral thrush, a fungal infection of the mouth characterized by white, milky patches that may cause pain and interfere with eating and drinking. Although antifungal medication is the standard treatment, topical gentain violet is an over-the-counter option which can be moderately effective at treating thrush. Read on for more information on using this product for oral thrush.
Step 1: Talk With Your Doctor
Before beginning treatment, talk with your health care provider or your child's pediatrician. In some situations your doctor may advise against gentain violet, since it can be irritating, or because the purple mouth stains can make it difficult to assess response to treatment. Also, do not use a gentain violet solution greater than 1 percent, unless your provider recommends a higher strength.
Step 2: Protect Clothing
Gentain violet will stain, so before applying, take steps to protect clothing. Undress from the waist up, or protect clothing with a bib or towel. A breastfeeding mother should take steps to protect clothing worn while nursing, as the baby can transfer some of this purple dye to her nipples during feeding.
Step 3: Apply Sparingly
Dip a cotton swab into the gentain violet solution, and sparingly apply to the affected mouth area. If you apply too liberally, excess staining can occur in the mouth and surrounding tissue, and some can be swallowed -- which should be avoided if possible.
Step 4: Repeat and Assess Tolerance
Typical dosing recommendations are to apply gentain violent 2 to 3 times daily for 3 days, or as directed by your doctor. Do not cover the affected area with bandages or other dressing, as this may cause irritation. Also, avoid prolonged or excessive use, as this can lead to irritation and mouth sores in some individuals. Stop treatment if any problems are noticed.
Step 5: When to Contact Your Doctor
Gentain violet usually clears the fungal infection within 2 to 3 days. If you do not notice improvement after 3 days, contact your doctor.
Things You'll Need
Gentian violet, 0.5 or 1 percent solution
If your breastfeeding infant has oral thrush, ask your doctor for advice on also treating your nipples, so you don't reinfect your baby. You doctor may recommend the use of gentain violet, or another antifungal product.
Do not use gentain violet if you or your child experienced irritation or ulcers from prior use. Also, take steps to ensure this solution is safe to use, by seeking your doctor's advice if you or your child are taking other prescription drugs or have allergies to dyes, preservatives or foods.
Reviewed by Kay Peck, MPH RD
- Experimental Dermatology: Gentian Violet: A 19th Century Drug Re-Emerges in the 21st Century
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Thrush
- Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases and Medical Microbiology: Antifungal Agents for Common Paediatric Infections
- Paediatrics Child Health: Antifungal Agents for Common Paediatric Infections