Infants are prone to illness just as much as older children, and certain situations may mean a baby is exposed more often. Babies who develop infection may have certain treatments that are not used in older children. The use of gentian violet is an unusual method of managing fungal infection in babies, but one that works well for parents who desire a natural form of treatment.
Gentian violet has several purposes in medicine, but in pediatrics it is primarily used for the treatment of thrush in babies. Gentian violet comes from coal tar and is named for its deep purple color. It has also been referred to by other names, such as crystal violet or methyl violet.
Thrush, also called candidiasis, is an infection caused by the fungus Candida albicans and occurs in the mouths of infants. Thrush can arise because of decreased immunity related to antibiotic and steroid use or in an infant who may have a lowered immune system, such as one born preterm. It appears as white patches on the tongue, cheeks and gums that do not wipe off. Infants who are breastfeeding are at risk of thrush recurring if cross-contamination happens with a fungal infection on the mother’s breast, according to the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Gentian violet is used as a solution and can be messy to apply. It is purple in color and can stain clothing and the lips and skin of babies. If ordered by a physician, it may be applied in the doctor’s office or at home. The New Parents Guide recommends dipping the end of a cotton-tipped swab into the solution of gentian violet and painting the inside of the baby’s cheeks, tongue and gums until they are covered. Use as directed by a physician and avoid applying too much for the baby to swallow, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Side effects of gentian violet can cause swelling and irritation inside the mouth. In some situations, sores may develop and the infant may show signs of irritability. If side effects occur, contact a physician for further direction.
For use in babies, gentian violet is prepared as a 1 percent solution that is diluted in water and is used topically in the mouth over the course of four to seven days. A physician may prescribe gentian violet with specific directions, or it can be bought over the counter in some pharmacies. For babies who are breastfeeding, gentian violet can be applied before nursing and will come in contact with the mother’s breast if she has a fungal infection as well.