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.
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.
Toddlers can get a yeast infection in their skin folds. Watch out for these areas:
- diaper area
Toddlers are always on the move. But refusing to stop for diaper 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.
Diaper rash vs. yeast infection
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:
- It doesn’t get any better with diaper rash cream.
- The irritation is in the front and symmetrical on both sides where the skin touches (thigh creases or skin folds).
- A yeast infection will be very red with small, red dots or bumps around the edges.
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 in children with medical conditions requiring IVs or catheters in their skin for a long period of time.
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 is key for yeast infections. Talk to your child’s doctor about only using antibiotics when necessary.
If your child is being 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.
- Both pacifiers and bottle nipples should be washed in very hot water or the dishwasher. This helps kill yeast.
- Frequent diaper changes. Keeping your toddler’s diaper area dry can help prevent yeast infections, especially at night. Allow “air time” just after diaper changes to let their skin fully dry before putting a diaper back on.
If your toddler continues to get frequent yeast infections, see their doctor. Reoccurring yeast infections might have an underlying cause and need to be treated at the source. Yeast infections in the diaper area usually stop once your child is out of diapers.