Baby's Tongue: Is It Thrush or Geographic Tongue?

Abnormal Appearances on the Tongue: What Is It?

by Jackie D. Kimball

Is It Thrush?

It was a busy summer morning . The cucumbers were washed, sliced , and ready to pickle.My toddler wandered back and forth ,from room to room playing with her dolls, dusting my table with her big girl apron on, and basically being underfoot. She was curious about what I was doing , as the heavy vinegar smell in the kitchen gave no clue that Mama was making any of her favorite foods. I let her stay near until I was ready to pour the hot liquid into the jars, then I led her to a play area and told her to stay.

Within minutes, she was back in the kitchen wanting "a tassy of it". With her, I sometimes had to pick my battles, and this wasn't one I cared to have. I pulled out a slice of the hot cucumber, now saturated with vinegar and dill. We blew on it and I gave the slice to her, and was grinning as I thought of her reaction to the bitter taste. To say I was unprepared for her banshee scream would be commpletely correct. A shudder, a shiver, a cute little grimace, but not this. It wasn't too hot, I knew. My daughter was kicking on the floor in pain, and grabbed her mouth.

I quickly stuck my finger in her mouth to rid it of the pickle slice. She , not understanding my hands invasion into her tiny little mouth, proceeded to throw one of her famous little tantrums. I knelt on the floor beside her and was about to pick her up when I saw her tongue. It was scalded! Spots on her tongue were bald! I was completely baffled. We blew on the cucumber. I knew it wasn't hot. What then? The vinegar? The dill? Did thrush ever look like that? No, my older daughter had thrush, and it looked very different.


Flash back ten years:

As a young mother ten years earlier, we went through the whole thrush drama. My older daughter had thrush during her fussy teething days. She put everything in her mouth. (Shoes,toys,purse straps- it seemed I was forever taking something out of her mouth). I wasn't surprised when I saw her tongue was thick ly coated  It almost looks like drops of milk, only thicker and a bit patchy.

I took my baby to the doctor and she was prescribed an oral medicine. I had to swab her mouth with it . Boy, was that a struggle to the finish! Poor baby, her blue mouth looked, well, comical. Some readers might remember those days of having your mouth swabbed with the blue medicine called gentian violet. I had a bout with it myself when I was a child. Not funny. Not at all. (NOTE:I have read recently that babies and young children are not to be treated with gentian violet .It is possible then, that my baby was given something else, though it was blue.It was forty -three years ago, and understandably, I forget.)

Thrush can be painful at times because of the lesions under the white coating. If this is scraped in some way, it could cause bleeding. Since it is a yeast infection (oral candidiasis ), it can also spread to the throat. It is important that babies don't put their hands in their diaper while parents are changing them, to avoid spreading to the diaper area. Babies and toddlers may be fussy, and unable to express the problem, which outrages them even more.( As witnessed by many parents.) Others don't seem to be bothered that much by it.



Baby Essentials SAVE! Then read more about geographic tongue below!

If It's NOT Thrush , Then What Is It?

Back in the kitchen my toddler had calmed down and was now eating a vanilla wafer as if it caused her no pain. I took the wait and see method, since we were a one car family, and I would have to call a friend to take us to our pediatrician. Hours passed, and at her snack time I watched her to see if she appeared to experience burning in her mouth again. Humm. None that I could see, but I decided to check her a bit later.

Checking her mouth, much against her will I might add, I was astonished to see the so called scalded spots were on a different area of her tongue. Note to self: Tomorrow we will go see Dr. Dyess.

Geographic Tongue: What's That?

Diagnosis: Geographic Tongue

Much to my relief, what my child had was actually less bothersome than thrush. The condition is called geographic tongue. While thrush presents a coated white tongue or white spots, geographic tongue has smoother red spots, and moves.

The condition was first described in a 1955 .(The American Dental Association 1987) . It is called geographic tongue because the red smooth spots on the tongue move over a period of a few hours or days.The tongue somewhat resembles a map.It is not caused by a yeast infection, though researchers still speculate on what does cause geographic tongue.

What has been found is that it tends to be hereditary, as it tends to affect ,for instance, more than one sibling. It is more common in adults, but it can occur at any age. Additionally ,it occurs more often in females. Some reasearch leans toward allergies and psoriasis. Other studies indicate that it is more common in diabetics.

It is usually painless, though some people say that spicy foods do cause a slight burning sensation ,albeit infrequently. A few say that their discomfort is chronic and intensifies with chewing. Some report rare if any burning, though their tongue may have several map like areas and appear to be painful. My daughter is now thirty-three, and I have never heard her claim any soreness or pain. My son also has geographic tongue, and he reports only an occasional discomfort.

No treatment is recommended, other than avoiding any foods that are known to cause burning or discomfort in the individual.

What I thought was pain and burning on my child's tongue may have been a protest of the taste, anger, or the sensation that all of us get if we get a hefty taste of strong vinegar. Geographic tongue is most often found in adults but can occur at any age and be present in babies and children.

    Thrush                                                                                Geographic tongue

coated white tongue                                                                smooth red spots

caused by yeast                                                                     not caused by yeast

very common                                                                         about 3% of population

Pictures Of Geographic Tongue

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Geographic Tongue  WikiMedia/Commons/ageekgalwikimedia/commons/Karttwikimedia/comons/jaksmata
Geographic Tongue  WikiMedia/Commons/ageekgal
Geographic Tongue WikiMedia/Commons/ageekgal


Did you know about the condition called geographic tongue?

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Comments 41 comments

Wealthmadehealthy profile image

Wealthmadehealthy 6 years ago from Somewhere in the Lone Star State

What a flabbergasting hub. I am as old as I am and have honestly never ever heard of this.....I guess the old adage is have to learn something new every day!!

GREAT hub!!!

bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 6 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA Author

Ha! Wealth, that's funny!I am as old as I am,too!I'll have to use that one the next time I'm pickin' a bone with my grown kids. Thanks for stopping by and being my first commenter!

samsons1 profile image

samsons1 6 years ago from Tennessee

voted up and useful! I've had the Thrush after taking antibiotics for bronchitis... given a mouth wash to gargle then swallow, does well--

bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 6 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA Author

Samson1,when I take antibiotics, I always eat plenty of live culture yogurt to counteract all the healthy bacteria that the antibiotics kill.Thanks for commenting!

lifegate profile image

lifegate 6 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

Bayoulady, thanks for a very interesting and well researched hub. I never heard of geographic tongue, but I'll be on the lookout for it.

bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 6 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA Author

Hi lifegate,thanks for commenting! I had never heard of geographic tongue until my own daughter had it,either.

stars439 profile image

stars439 6 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

Dear bayoulady : So sorry that your child has this difficulty. I hope and pray she gets better. The sweet darling has gone through a lot. God Bless You and your family.

cbris52 profile image

cbris52 6 years ago

I've never heard of geographic tounge either.... Very interesting and useful topic. Thanks for sharing.

bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 6 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA Author

Hi Stars, my friend! My daughter is 33 now, and she rarely even thinks about the geographic tongue. She never mentions it, so I assume it is no biggie now. It wasn't a problem when she was younger, but I can't tell you how many nosey old busybodies wanted to tell me it was thrush! My doctor told me to educate them!HA!

bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 6 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA Author

cbris52, Hi! Thank you for reading and commenting on geograhic tongue!

Pink Mingos profile image

Pink Mingos 6 years ago from Mars

I have never heard of it either, but this is good to know. We all encounter new parents from time to time, so any advice we "Empty Nest" mom's (or even you guys) can carry with us is helpful to know!

bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 6 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA Author

Pink Mingos, Hi! thanks for reading and commenting. Isn't this one of the good things about following so many writers? We learn so much! I think I am always saying to myself..hummmm I didn't know that!

akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

Great info - I only know about it because I type about it all the time....medical transcriptionist. Well done!

bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 6 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA Author

akirchner. You're the first to say you knew bout it!Thanks for reading and commenting!

Mazelle profile image

Mazelle 6 years ago from South Africa

Also the first time that I heard of geographic tongue. Good to know.

Good hub.

bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 6 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA Author

Hi Mazelle,Thanks for reading and commenting!

Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago

I've known about geographical tongue for some time; I have a friend who was a nervous wreck waiting to see the dentist to find out exactly what it was.

Thrush, common in babies........... more common it seems in those who nurse than bottle feed, but years later.......... I do remember my son's screams. He was NOT a happy boy! Kaie

bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 6 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA Author

Kaie, thanks for commenting! You are so right thrush is really a bummer.

habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

Great info! Now I'm gonna be looking at all the grandkids' tongues.

Judicastro profile image

Judicastro 6 years ago from birmingham, Alabama

Great hub and written well. Voted up and useful. Thanks for sharing.

the clean life profile image

the clean life 6 years ago from New Jersey Shore

Great Hub and so much information. Nice Job! I also voted up and useful. I never heard of Geographic Tongue

so thanks for this.

bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 6 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA Author

habee,hello. Thanks for reading and commenting. okay, now go look at those tongues!

bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 6 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA Author

Judicastro, thanks for stopping by and commenting. So far 91% of voters on this hub have not heard of geographic tongue.

bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 6 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA Author

clean life,thanks for stopping by and commenting on geographic tongue.Isn't it amazing how much we learn just by being hubbers?

myawn profile image

myawn 6 years ago from Florida

I had never heard of it before now Thanks for the huib!

bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 6 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA Author

Myawn, thanks so much for commenting. Most that comment haven't heard of geographic tongue, so I'm glad I wrote this!

Kerri 6 years ago

My daughter's five and we she's had it since she was about 3...our dentist informed us what it was. Not sure if you've noticed, or anyone else daughter's seems to get much worse when she's had a fever. Thanks for the article...I was concerned it might be thrush this time...guess not!

bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 6 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA Author

Kerri,thanks for commenting, and I'm glad my article helped.Yes, fever seems to increase the spots.

RNMSN profile image

RNMSN 6 years ago from Tucson, Az

wow Jackie now I know what my grandauhter had! it was always bothering me/ never bothered her though! wonderful hub as usual and love to you!! barbara b

bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 6 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA Author

Hi B! I still have to remind my adult kids once in a while that that's what it is.(They forget..)Thanks for the compliments!

mandie 6 years ago

never heard of it until now. my four mnrh old had a wellness exam today and I asked her if it was thrush she said no it was geographical tongue. so just in case they gave her thrush medicine. I gave it too her and she screamed and turned deep red. calling the doctor tommorow. one of the ingredients is acid. go figure she does have it :(

bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 6 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA Author

Hi Mandie~~thanks for commenting on my article. my daughter is this account is now 33, and she still has bouts of it. She says it rarely hurts,though.

yeastinf 6 years ago

nice review and very informative. i didn't knew these things about babies thrush. anyway good job

marion carolan 6 years ago

i new my 2 year olds tounge looked strange like trush but not,i treated it like trush, no joy, it gets worse wen hes sick n clears up 4 a while after an antibiotic. glad to find out wot it is and wer not alone!! cant wait 4 monday morning till i tell my doctor

ESTHER 5 years ago

Thank you for advising us young mothers about our babies with geographical tounges

ESTHER 5 years ago

Thank you for advising me my baby is 7 months old and he has some lines in his tongue at first i thought it was thrush now i know its geographical tongue. no more worries now.

mmmn 5 years ago

thank you so much for this year old son has it since he was four month doesn't seem to be causing him any discomfort so far but what worries me is that it might get worse by time...also i dont want him to have any kind of embaressment while growing far it seems its a very mild form of gt but it worries me that it will get worse :(

metalmomma27 profile image

metalmomma27 5 years ago from Hornell,New York

That is the first time I have heard of geographic tongue. My youngest daughter Kaylyn had the Five Disease; and I have never heard it either until she had it. Like many babies who are teething put a lot of things in their mouths. Its little red bumps all over the body and red patches around the mouth. It doesn't hurt them but very uncomfortable for babies due to the inching. I used Benadryl Gel extra strength for the inching and let it run its course . Just thought new moms to be should knw this as well if your little one(s) get it.

bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 5 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA Author

Esther,metalmomma,and mmmn.......Thanks for taaking the time to comment on my hub!

gaynor 5 years ago

My son has always suffered from red patches on hi tongue. From the age of 6 months and he still has it now at the age of 4yrs. My GP passed it off as a 'coated tongue' and it is not until a couple of months ago at my son's dental checkup that the dentist noticed the red patches. She referred me to the hospital and he has confirmed that it is geographic tongue. Just goes to show that GP's can get it totally wrong.

bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 5 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA Author

thanks for your input,Gaynor!

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