Is it normal for a baby to experience a teething fever whenever they’re cutting teeth? Does teething cause fever or other physical symptoms in and of itself? If so, how bad does the fever get, how long does it last, and how should parents help treat a teething fever?
In other words, kids get fevers whenever there are “bad” germs in their bodies that are trying to form an infection. The fever helps get rid of those germs to keep your child's teeth healthy.
A parent’s intuition is important when things seem “off” with your little one. But even seasoned parents can get caught off guard if their baby or toddler is teething or fussy. Since not all kids experience “teething fever,” it can even be different for every child in your family.
It’s important to watch the frequency and severity of your child’s symptoms. For example, even though fever may not specifically be related to tooth eruption, other physical ailments like a teething rash, runny nose, or diarrhea could.
One of the best ways to tell if your child is sick vs. teething is to watch for fussiness and increased saliva production (aka drooling.) If they’re grabbing at their mouths, pulling at their ears, irritable, don’t want to eat, and drooling a lot, there’s about a 50/50 chance that it’s because they’re teething.
Watch your child for a spike in their “teething fever.” Does teething cause fever? Not necessarily. If their fever is high or over 102 degrees, there’s something more serious going on.
Additionally, teething fever or other teething symptoms seen with cutting teeth typically only fall within an 8-day window of time. If symptoms last longer than that or become severe, it’s a signal that something else is going on.
In the studies where teething infants experienced an actual fever, the baby's temperature never got up to 104 degrees. And the symptoms they did have typically ran their course in just over a week (eight days, to be precise.)
The eight-day timeframe where kids tend to experience teething symptoms accounts for the four days leading up to the eruption, the actual day the tooth “cuts” through the gums, and then the three days after the tooth comes in.
Pediatric health experts recommend that any child with a fever lasting for more than 2-3 days be seen by a medical professional.
Teething-related fever typically lasts for one to two days. If your baby's fever persists for longer than this, or if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as severe diarrhea or a rash, it is important to consult a pediatrician to rule out other causes of fever.
According to experts, if your child is able to sleep ok with their fever and isn’t too upset whenever they’re awake, parents do not need to seek out how to treat the fever. By trying to get rid of the fever, any medication temporarily makes the child feel better, but it doesn’t help their immune system fight off whatever infection it is that’s causing the fever to begin with. However, if they’re in obvious discomfort, give them Tylenol or Motrin as directed (never aspirin.)
To keep your baby comfortable, dress them in light clothing but do allow them to have a blanket if they like. A lukewarm bath can also help them feel a little better, but avoid using cold water since it might actually cause your child’s fever to get worse. Applying a cool compress to their forehead or back of their neck can also feel nice.
Newborns with fevers should be taken immediately to an emergency room. For older babies who are closer to teething age, let their pediatrician know if your baby's body temperature increased or had a low-grade fever for more than 2-3 days or if they have a high fever. Neither of these scenarios is likely to be a “teething fever.”
As a parent trying to narrow down which symptoms your baby has and how to manage them, it’s important to be aware of which warning signs are linked with teething fever or not. Does teething cause fever in some babies? Well, if it’s alongside one of the following symptoms, probably not:
Your baby shouldn’t be throwing up as a result of teething. Any vomiting—especially in an infant—should be addressed quickly.
On occasion, we do see signs of diarrhea in teething infants. But if it is persistent, it’s not because of a teething fever.
A teething rash may develop around the neck or chin when babies drool excessively. But large areas of rashes are not from teething.
Extremely irritable or inconsolable babies are likely experiencing some other co-existing issue besides teething.
Teething babies should never be lethargic. Seek immediate professional medical attention.
It’s normal and natural for your baby to feel at least a little discomfort whenever they’re teething. But seeing your baby in obvious pain because of a tooth cutting through their gums is hard to watch. To help, parents can safely try the following tips:
Keeping teething rings in the refrigerator will make them feel more comfortable to chew on, and the cooler temperature will ease gum pain. But don’t freeze them, as it could be harmful to your baby or even cause the teething ring to burst.
While your teething baby may want to chew on things more frequently, you typically shouldn’t need to give them pain relievers on a daily basis. Reserve pain medications for when they’re in noticeable distress, too fussy to sleep comfortably, or—under the direction of your pediatrician—for managing fevers. Fevers, to a certain extent, are necessary for a healthy immune system. Always speak to your pediatrician if you have questions.
Some safe and natural ways to help your baby with teething pain is to give them something clean and cool to chew on. Such as a refrigerated teething toy or damp washcloth. You can also rub their gums with a clean washcloth over with a clean finger. Experts do advise parents to steer clear of teething jewelry.
Always remember that the window of time where your baby might experience discomfort is about eight days or less. When you average 20 teeth out over 18 months (since babies teeth sometime between ages six months and two years of age), that can really add up. The good news is that teeth typically erupt in pairs or close to it, so that will help shorten the window of fussiness. It doesn’t last forever!
Don’t take fevers lightly, especially in babies. If you assume that your baby has a teething fever, you’re probably more likely overlooking something else. Communicating with your pediatrician and allowing them to take an overall look at your little one is the best bet. ANY low-grade fevers that last more than a few days and ANY high fevers over 104 degrees are automatically something you need to talk to your pediatrician about. Remember what we talked about in the beginning? Fevers are the way your child’s body’s way of trying to get rid of bad germs. Teething is a completely normal, natural developmental process. If you don’t see the other typical symptoms of teething—like drool constantly running down their chin or them wanting to chew on things—then the fever is likely unrelated to them cutting their teeth.
Does teething cause fever or low-grade fevers? Technically no. Otherwise, there would be more data to show a higher correlation between fevers and teething. BUT…yes, some kids do get a teething fever whenever they’re cutting teeth. But teething in and of itself isn’t proven to cause a fever, even though we do know that kids may experience other viral symptoms like a rash, diarrhea, or are generally fussy. If your child has a low-grade fever for more than a few days or a high fever over 104 degrees for any length of time, speak with your pediatrician (not your dentist.)
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