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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