crying toddler with yeast infection

A yeast infection is probably not the first thing you think of when you hear the word toddler. But the same uncomfortable infection that’s common in adult women can affect little ones, too.

With toddlers, any health problem — especially those concerning the diaper area — can be tricky. Most toddlers aren't very good at communicating, so you might not even be aware that there’s a problem. And it’s not something parents are likely watching out for.

But it happens more than you’d think. My daughter had a yeast infection as a toddler. That’s when I found out that they are pretty common.

What Is a Yeast Infection?

Causes

Everyone has yeast, which is a fungus called Candida, on their body. It generally hangs out in the mouth, intestines, and on the skin.

Factors like antibiotics, stress, or irritation can throw off the microbial environment in the body. This can allow yeast to grow in excess. That’s when a yeast infection occurs.

Yeast Infections in Toddlers

Yeast infections are most common in infants and young toddlers. They typically stop when your child is no longer breast- or bottle-feeding and is out of diapers.
Karen Gill, San Francisco pediatrician

Toddlers can get a yeast infection in their skin folds. Watch out for these areas:

  • armpit
  • neck
  • mouth
  • diaper area

Toddlers are always on the move. But refusing to stop for diapers changes or potty breaks can leave a moist diaper. This is where yeast can develop.

Some toddlers may even be potty training, so frequent accidents or changes could contribute to a yeast infection.

Is It Diaper Rash or a Yeast Infection?

What Is Thrush?
Thrush is a yeast infection in the mouth area. It can occur in breast-fed infants and toddlers, especially if their mother has been on antibiotic therapy for any infections.

If your toddler has diaper rash, a yeast infection can make it worse. Or, you can easily mistake a yeast infection for diaper rash. This is what happened with our daughter.

Our pediatrician told us that some telltale signs that it's a yeast infection and not diaper rash are:

  1. It doesn't get any better with diaper rash cream.
  2. The irritation is symmetrical on both sides where the skin touches.

Is It Dangerous?

Yeast infections aren't usually dangerous, but they are uncomfortable. This is especially true for young children.

In rare cases, the infection can get into the bloodstream in children whose immune systems are already weakened. This can also happen for in children with medical conditions requiring IVs or catheters in their skin for a long period of time.

Treatment

Treatment

Skin yeast infections in toddlers are usually treated with antifungal ointments that you apply directly to the affected areas.

Other types of yeast infections in the body, such as those that can develop in the mouth or even spread to other parts in the body, will need to be treated with oral antifungal medications like fluconazole.

Most yeast infections resolve within two weeks after starting treatment, but reoccurrence is common.

Prevention

Prevention

Prevention is key for yeast infections. Talk to your child's doctor about only using antibiotics when necessary.

If your child is getting prescribed antibiotics too frequently, they might kill off the "good" bacteria or some of the necessary bacteria that keep yeast at bay.

Other tips for treating a current yeast infection and preventing future yeast infections include:

  • Checking pacifiers. Older pacifiers can harbor yeast growth, so check your child's favorite and replace it if necessary.
  • Replacing bottle nipples. Like pacifiers, bottle nipples are a risk factor for the development of an oral yeast infection.
  • Frequent diaper changes. Keeping your toddler's diaper area dry can help prevent yeast infections, especially at night.
  • Making dietary changes. Reducing sugar intake, limiting dairy, and cutting artificial sweeteners might help keep Candida growth in check. Yeast seem to "feed" off of the excess sugar. These effects have only been studied in women though, not in toddlers.

If your toddler continues to get frequent yeast infections, see your child’s doctor. Reoccurring yeast infections might have an underlying cause and need to be treated at the source.