Fungal Infection: Thrush

Thrush is a yeast infection that occurs mainly in the mouth, vagina or with nappy rash. It is caused by a fungus that thrives in a warm, dark and moist environment, it is very common is women and is more likely to occur when pregnant, as a side-effect of certain medications, when run down or when immuno-suppressed, such as with HIV or when receiving chemotherapy. The fungal particles are usually harmlessly present in humans, but when unwell or under stress, it can multiply and become problematic.

Signs and Symptoms

Oral thrush is first seen with a redness of the tongue with the occurrence of a few small white spots. It can develop to a full coverage of the tongue with a thick whitish carpet-like appearance.

Vaginal thrush is distinguished by having a thick creamy discharge that can be odorous and itchy. The area may be red and tender with a small chance of pain when passing water.


There a many creams and pessaries available for the treatment of vaginal thrush, and a selection of oral preparations to help eliminate oral thrush, many available as a single dose; the pharmacist at your local chemist can help select an appropriate treatment. These can usually be bought over the counter, though a GP will be happy to provide a prescription if needed. Natural treatments include the use of natural yogurt applied to the vagina; this can be achieved by using a tampon and applicator or by hand.

Prevention of Thrush

Avoid tight fitting clothes and underwear, especially in hot weather as this can increase the chances of developing thrush. If you know you are prone to thrush, try wearing stockings instead of tights and always wear cotton underwear, which should be changed at least once daily.

Ensure the correct methods of sterilisation of baby equipment is followed to help reduce the incidence of thrush in infants; if you are unsure, speak to your health visitor who will give advice on types of sterilisation equipment available and demonstrate how to use it.

If using an inhaler of any type, always rinse the mouth after using the inhaler to prevent bacterial and fungal build-up. Use separate towels for bathing and ensure strict hand washing techniques are employed to avoid the spread of thrush and the transfer of fungal infection from hand to mouth, especially after using the toilet or tending to menstrual hygiene. Avoid the unnecessary use of anti-biotics as this can increase the use of thrush developing.

Avoid unprotected sex, even with a long-term partner if thrush has developed as the infection can spread to partners. If thrush is a persistent problem, speak to your GP who may want to do blood and urine tests to rule out the incidence of diabetes.

If you are caring for someone with thrush, particularly the very dependent such as the elderly or mentally incapacitated ensure they have a frequent supply of clean fresh fluids and ensure teeth/dentures are cleaned thoroughly to help alleviate the symptoms.

Thrush is a very common problem and should not be confused with a sexually transmitted infection. It is a fungal infection that can develop in people of any age at any time.

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