Beat thrush this summer

MELODY MCCABE
Last updated 08:07 27/11/2012
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GRAN KNOWS: When she told you to get out of your wet togs "before you get sick"- she knew what she was talking about.
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GRAN KNOWS: When she told you to get out of your wet togs "before you get sick"- she knew what she was talking about.

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As the weather starts to warm, the kids are enjoying the pool and your digestive tract is being spoilt with delicious treats your gut might not be used to, there is a rather uncomfortable and annoying condition that may affect you and your kids.

It is estimated that 75 per cent of all women will experience a thrush infection at least once in their lives. The condition also affects children and babies, who can get a mild thrush infection in their mouths or on their bottoms.

Adhila Kara, a pharmacist at Life Pharmacy Manakau told Essential Mums that generally there are more cases of thrush during the summer months than at any other time.

"It happens mainly in summer because it is warmer and people are swimming more. Sitting in wet costumes for long periods of time can also increase the risk of developing thrush," she explains.

What exactly is thrush?

Oral thrush: is a condition in which the fungus candida albicans accumulates on the lining of the mouth, this can spread to the roof of the mouth, the gums, tonsils or the back of the throat. Although oral thrush can affect anyone, it's more likely to occur in babies.

Vaginal thrush: or yeast infections are caused by the same fungus that causes oral thrush. Although a yeast infection isn't dangerous, if you're pregnant you can pass the fungus to your baby during delivery. As a result, your newborn may develop oral thrush.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of oral thrush include a thick, white coating of the tongue, inner cheeks (buccal mucosa), inner lip region, or gums. If your baby has oral thrush, they may be very cranky and feeding may be difficult.

The common symptoms of vaginal thrush include pain, itching and vaginal discharge. Some women may experience pain when urinating or during sex and the vulval itching and irritation can cause considerable discomfort.

What causes it?

The candida albicans yeast germ causes 80 per cent to 90 per cent of vaginal yeast infections. Normally, your body produces bacteria that keep candida in check but when candida multiplies and exceeds the body's ability to control it, vaginal thrush can occur.

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Oral thrush is also caused by an overgrowth of candida albicans, which is found on skin surfaces, the oral cavity, and throughout the intestinal tract of healthy individuals.

In older children and adults oral thrush can occur because of prolonged or repeated oral antibiotics, smoking, use of birth control pills and diabetes.

The incorrect use of inhalers containing corticosteroids (like some asthma inhalers) can also lead to the development of oral thrush.

Can I prevent it?

Kara says that hygiene is particularly important in summer to prevent thrush, changing out of wet costumes and wearing cotton underwear rather than synthetic materials can also help prevent it.

"Sometimes using soap substitutes rather than soap can also help," she says.

If you are planning on going on holiday, it may be advisable for the whole family to take probiotics, especially because it strengthens the immune system. While there are probiotics in some yoghurt products, it is not possible to know how much of this makes it to your system and if it will help.

"If families are travelling over the Christmas season I would suggest they take probiotics because they also improve the immune system. When you are on holiday you are in contact with more people and exposed to more germs," Kara says.

"Seventy per cent of our immune system is actually in our gut. So if that is healthy then everything else follows."

In addition to taking probiotics, it might be a good idea to pack some topical cream. Your pharmacist will be able to recommend a product for you.

Things to avoid:

  • Wear cotton or silk underwear, which allows excess moisture to evaporate, unlike nylon and other synthetics.
  • Wash and dry your underwear thoroughly and change it often to prevent dampness which can increase the chance of vaginal thrush.
  • Avoid using feminine deodorant sprays and other products as these may increase the chance of a vaginal yeast infection.
  • Be aware that using sanitary towels may increase your chances of getting vaginal thrush, especially if you are somewhere hot and humid.
  • For little girls, bubble baths could aggravate a thrush infection and some products could cause one - so double check whether Christmas gifts (like bubble bath/bath crystals) are suitable.
  • If you, or your kids are on a treatment of antibiotics, it as advisable to take some probiotics too. "We always recommend this to patients, simply because it prevents developing thrush as opposed to getting it and having to treat it later," says Kara.
  • Avoid sugar - if you are eating a lot of sugary treats over December it can contribute to developing thrush, or could make an infection worse, especially if you or anyone in your family is diabetic.

Can I use a topical cream if I am pregnant?

If you are pregnant speak to your pharmacist, doctor or midwife before self medicating. They will be able to advise what treatments are safe.

- Essential Mums

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