Anyone living with asthma can attest to the many ways the chronic respiratory illness affects daily life. From a nagging cough at night to symptoms that are more likely to occur during certain seasons, getting on the proper maintenance drugs can help reduce asthma’s impact on your life. But for some people, asthma medications cause unpleasant side effects like oral thrush.
What is thrush?
Thrush is the widely used term for a yeast infection in the mouth caused by a type of fungus called Candida albicans. This type of yeast is usually present in the mouth and body. An infection only happens when the normal balance of microorganisms is disturbed, resulting in an overgrowth of Candida.
Common symptoms include:
- White bumps inside of the mouth and throat
- Pain or burning in the mouth
- Cracked, red skin at the corners of the mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
Thrush is most common in people whose immune systems are underdeveloped or weakened, including:
- Infants and toddlers
- People with HIV or AIDS
- Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy
How do asthma medications cause thrush?
Inhaled corticosteroids are considered one of the main elements of asthma treatment, and are used to reduce inflammation in the airways. Repeated contact of these steroids with the mucous membranes of the mouth can depress the immune system, leading to an overgrowth of the thrush-causing yeast.
If you regularly use inhaled corticosteroids, there are several things you can do to reduce your chances of developing oral thrush.
1. Rinse after inhaler
- Rinse out your mouth with water after using an inhaler to clear away any steroid left sitting in your mouth
- Keeping your inhaler near a sink can help get you in the habit of rinsing your mouth immediately after use.
2. Use a spacer
- Spacers reduce thrush by delivering more medication directly into your lungs.
- Using a spacer also reduces wasted doses from an inhaler, and is especially helpful for children or anyone who has trouble using an inhaler properly.
Probiotic substances contain microorganisms to help the beneficial bacteria in our bodies thrive, which may prevent overgrowth of harmful bacteria and fungi. Although scientific evidence for claims made about probiotics are mixed, some studies suggest probiotics are helpful in managing oral thrush.
- A 2015 study found that treating dentures with capsules containing probiotics reduced the detection rate of Candida in participants by 83%.
- Another study from 2015 tested probiotic lozenges and found they reduced the prevalence of high Candida counts in elderly patients.
- Eating probiotics in foods like yogurt are most often used to help restore bacterial balance in the stomach and intestines, but could be helpful in preventing oral thrush.
4. Eat a Low Sugar Diet
Foods with high sugar content are believed to help yeasts thrive. Cutting them from your diet could make you less likely to develop thrush. Some of the worst culprits include:
- Fruit juices
- Soft drinks
- White bread, rice, potatoes
5. Avoid Excessive Mouthwash Use
Unless prescribed by your doctor for a specific problem, avoid using antibacterial mouthwash that could kill the beneficial bacteria in your mouth.
6. Antifungal Medications
The above remedies can be helpful in preventing oral thrush from occurring. But if you have an active infection your doctor will probably prescribe antifungal medication to kill the overgrowth of Candida. Antifungals for oral thrush are usually given in the form of a lozenge or mouthwash, and use active ingredients like nystatin or clotrimazole.
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DISCLAIMER: The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.