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What is the Difference Between Thrush and Yeast Infection?

By Judith Smith Sullivan
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The difference between thrush and a yeast infection is the area which is infected. Thrush typically refers to a yeast infection in a breastfeeding mother and her baby. In most cases, the baby becomes infected through the mother. A yeast infection usually refers to overproduction of yeast in the genitalia.

Yeast and bacteria are part of the microscopic food chain of the human body. Bacteria eat the yeast, and when there are not enough bacteria present, yeast growth becomes excessive. The result is a yeast infection.

The symptoms of both thrush and a yeast infection present in much the same way. The telltale sign is a white curd-like substance on the infected area. Any area which is moist and warm is susceptible. Thrush is typically found in the mother's breast, on her nipple, in the baby's mouth, and on the baby's bottom.

When a baby's bottom is infected, thrush resembles a severe diaper rash. The difference between thrush and a common diaper rash is that thrush is persistent despite treatment. Ointments might even make the rash worse. A breast infected with thrush will be very painful, and the nipple area will be red, flaky or have a rash. Untreated, a yeast infection in the breast can lead to plugged ducts and mastitis.

The mouth of a baby with thrush will have white curds on the inside of the lips and cheeks. There may also be a white coating on the tongue. The curds might look like they can be scraped away, but doing so will cause redness and bleeding.

Mothers who have taken antibiotics during pregnancy are at higher risk for developing thrush, and taking oral contraceptives or steroids also increases the chances of developing a thrush infection. These drugs effect the immune system and compromise the body's ability to maintain its chemical balance.

Both men and women can develop genital yeast infections, and in both cases, white curds or a discharge will probably be visible. In women, the vagina might also have a white coating and a foul smell. A vaginal yeast infection is usually itchy and uncomfortable. Yeast infections in men normally occur in the penis, and often, there is irritation around the penis and a discharge. The tip of the penis is typically red and painful.

Both thrush and a yeast infection require the attention of a medical professional. Prescription medication is needed to restore normal bacteria levels. There are some home and natural remedies but they probably should not be used in place of professional medical treatment.

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Discussion Comments

By anon996190 — On Jul 21, 2016

Wow, so my daughter who has never been pregnant, let alone had a baby, can't have thrush or a yeast infection? Good to know that our doctor is a quack. My Doctor thinks that both are an imbalance of microscopic bacteria. Why does this start off as a baby discussion?

By ElizaBennett — On Apr 06, 2012

@jennythelib - I think it's not so much that over-the-counter medicines or even home remedies do not work as that you should really check with your doctor to make sure that you are diagnosing yourself, or your child, correctly. While you're there, you can ask what medicine would be most appropriate and if you can try a particular natural remedy first. For instance, many women think they have a yeast infection when actually they have bacterial vaginosis - or even no infection at all, just a temporary irritation or PH imbalance.

Thrush in the diaper area is pretty common with cloth diapered babies especially. They say that using coconut oil regularly as a diaper cream will help prevent it. I've successfully used Nystatin to clear up thrush rash if it occurs, but I checked with my pediatrician first.

By jennythelib — On Apr 05, 2012

Are over-the-counter anti-yeast medications like Monistat not effective to get rid of a yeast infection? Is it better to see your doctor and get a prescription, or will the ones that you can buy at the drug store work OK?

I have a friend who swears by natural remedies, like vinegar rinsing, but I tend to want a more sure-fire thing.

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