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What are the Symptoms of Teething?

By K. Testa
Updated May 17, 2024
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Teething refers to a baby’s first set of teeth, as they emerge from his or her gums. It can occur anywhere between about three and 12 months of age, but the average age for most babies to begin teething is at around six months old. Some typical symptoms of teething can include drooling, fever, and general irritability. These are not usually serious and can often be relieved with simple remedies. When symptoms do not go away after the teeth have appeared, or if a caretaker notices worrisome symptoms in general, he or she may want to consult a pediatrician for advice.

The typical teething schedule can start before the child is a year old, and is normally finished by age three. Two signs that a baby is about to start teething can include gum swelling and discomfort, and he or she might start biting things to relieve the discomfort. The pain can also lead to fussiness, and the baby might display a loss of appetite because eating or drinking might cause mouth pain. Other common telltale signs of teething in babies are excessive drooling, trouble sleeping, and rubbing their cheeks or ears.

To relieve the symptoms of teething, many doctors recommend placing light pressure on the gums and using a cool or cold object to reduce swelling. Gently rubbing the baby’s gums with one’s finger can sometimes be enough to provide relief. In addition, babies often like to chew on teething rings, which are usually made of soft plastic and filled with water. A chilled teething ring, or even a soft cloth soaked in cold water, can help ease a baby’s teething pain. Heavy drooling might cause a rash on the baby’s chin or around his or her mouth. This can usually be relieved with a lanolin ointment or petroleum jelly.

For treating symptoms of teething, such as fever and pain, doctors usually suggest a mild pain reliever, like infants' acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Generally, other medications are not recommended, unless one’s pediatrician has explicitly approved them. There are other remedies that generally should not be used to treat symptoms of teething. These include teething gels that can numb the gums and sometimes the rest of the mouth. Opinions about these remedies vary among medical professionals, so one should consult a trusted doctor for personal advice.

There are few known side effects of teething. What some people may take as symptoms of teething, however, might in fact be indicators of another medical issue. For example, many people associate a cough or runny nose with teething, when the child might actually have a cold or infection. There is even some disagreement in the medical field about whether a fever is necessarily a symptom of teething. In most cases, caretakers should consult their doctor if they feel that any of the symptoms are prolonged or worsening, especially if the baby has a fever of 101°F (about 38°C) or higher.

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Discussion Comments
By fBoyle — On Sep 24, 2014

My daughter is teething and she is actually doing well. I though she would be having a harder time but no. She just seems to have itchy gums. There is a little drooling and she wants to bite on things a lot. I've bought her teething rings and she loves them. They seem to be relieving the gum itching and irritation caused by the teeth coming through.

By bear78 — On Sep 23, 2014

@donasmrs-- Absolutely not. This is a common misconception.

It's true that some babies experience a mild fever when they are teething. They may also be irritable, may have less appetite or may drool. But a runny nose, a high temperature, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea have nothing to do with teething. Such symptoms are signs of an infection. It could be bacterial or viral. Diarrhea can be a sign of a bacterial infection. For example, if the baby picked up something from the floor and put it in his mouth.

See a doctor about these symptoms. Don't brush them off thinking them to be teething symptoms. It could be an infection. Also check his temperature to see if he has a fever.

Fever above 102 degrees or fever that's constant means infection.

By donasmrs — On Sep 23, 2014

Are a runny nose and diarrhea signs of teething? My son has been irritable lately. He also has a runny nose and looser stool than usual. It's about time for him to teethe, so could these be signs of it?

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