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Candidiasis in Children

What is candidiasis?

Candidiasis is an infection caused by yeast called Candida. Candida normally causes no harm, and is found on the skin, vaginal area, and digestive system. But in some cases, it can overgrow. This can cause a rash, itching, and other symptoms.

What causes candidiasis?

Yeast normally lives on and in the body and causes no harm. It’s found on the skin, in the digestive system (including the mouth and throat), and in the genital area. But it can cause an infection in certain conditions. This can happen when the skin is damaged, when it’s warm and humid, or when a child has a weak immune system. In some very sick children, it can infect deeper tissues or the bloodstream and cause serious illness. Medicine with antibiotics or corticosteroids can also cause the yeast to overgrow. This is because those medicines kill normal bacteria that usually prevent too much yeast to grow.

Who is at risk for candidiasis?

A child is at risk for candidiasis because of:

  • Hot, humid weather
  • Too much time between diaper changes
  • Poor hygiene
  • Taking medicines such as antibiotics or corticosteroids
  • Health conditions that weaken the immune system, such as diabetes, cancer, or HIV

What are the symptoms of candidiasis?

Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child. And they vary depending on where the infection occurs. The most common symptoms include:



Skin folds or navel

  • Rash
  • Patches that ooze clear fluid
  • Pimples
  • Itching or burning


  • White or yellow discharge from the vagina
  • Itching
  • Redness in the external area of the vagina
  • Burning


  • Redness on the penis
  • Scaling on the penis
  • Painful rash on the penis

Mouth (thrush)

  • White patches on the tongue, top of the mouth, and inside of the cheeks
  • Pain

Corners of the mouth (perlèche)

  • Cracks or tiny cuts at the corners of the mouth

Nail beds (peronychia) 

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Pus
  • White or yellow nail that separates from the nail bed

The symptoms of candidiasis can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is candidiasis diagnosed?

The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. He or she will give your child a physical exam. And the healthcare provider may scrape off a skin sample to check in a lab.

How is candidiasis treated?

Most cases of candidiasis are mild and respond well to medicine. Treatment depends on where the infection is and how severe it is. For example:

  • Candidiasis on the skin is treated with ointment.
  • Yeast infections in the vagina or anus can be treated with medicated suppositories.
  • Thrush may be treated with a medicated mouthwash or lozenges.
  • Severe infection or infection in a child with a weak immune system may be treated with oral anti-yeast medicines.

What are possible complications of candidiasis?

In rare cases, it can cause serious and life-threatening illness. This can happen when a child has a weak immune system and the infection enters the bloodstream.

Can candidiasis be prevented?

You can help prevent candidiasis by:

  • Keeping your child’s skin as clean and dry as possible
  • Changing diapers often
  • Allowing your child to have diaper-free time
  • Using antibiotics on your child only when needed
  • Watching for candidiasis symptoms after the use of antibiotics
  • Talking about prevention with your child’s healthcare provider if your child has a weak immune system

When should I call my child's healthcare provider?

Call the healthcare provider if your child has:

  • Symptoms that affect a large area
  • Symptoms that get worse
  • Signs of a skin infection, such as increased redness, warmth, swelling, or fluid
  • New symptoms

Key points about candidiasis

  • Candidiasis is an infection caused by yeast.
  • Risk factors for candidiasis include humid weather, too much time between diaper changes, and other factors.
  • Candidiasis is easily treated with medicines such as ointment, suppositories, or mouthwash.
  • Prevention includes keeping the skin dry, changing diapers often, and using antibiotics only when needed.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s health care provider:
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • At the visit, write down the names of new medicines, treatments, or tests, and any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
  • If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.
Online Medical Reviewer: Bass, Pat F. III, MD, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Berman, Kevin, MD, PhD
Date Last Reviewed: 8/17/2015
© 2000-2015 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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