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Newborn and Infant Care

What does white tongue mean?

12/17/2008

Question:

My baby of 9 months has a cold and now his tongue is coated white. What does it mean?

Answer:

A tongue which is white in an infant is usually caused by one of three things:

1.) Milk tongue- just a bit of milk residue on the tongue

2.) Thrush- a common fungal infection of the mouth, more common if taking antibiotics

3.) Mild dehydration- a decrease of fluids in the baby's system.

The first item needs no attention. #2 only needs to be addressed if causing the infant discomfort with feeding or some feel if it has spread to the inside of the cheeks. #3 may occur if the infant has decreased their oral intake due to a stuffy nose, increased sleep or overall fussiness. This cause should definitely be seen by your health care provider.

For more information:

Go to the Newborn and Infant Care health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Sarah Sauntry, RN, MS, CPNP-PC
Assistant Professor of Clinical Nursing
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati