Depending on who you ask, infants who are “cutting” their teeth or “teething” can develop a wide variety of viral-like symptoms. Although there are still fairly controversial opinions on which ones are caused by teething or not, “teething rash” is one of them. And if you’re the parent of a baby who is teething, you know just how hard it can be.
A teething rash is when an infant shows some type of rash-like symptoms around their mouth, on their face, or elsewhere on their body. It’s attributed to tooth eruption, or at least closely linked to it.
But let’s say—disagreements aside—that teething rash is a real thing. And as a parent, you’ve worked with your pediatrician to rule out other possible rashes. Such as Hand, Foot & Mouth, or Scarlet Fever. If it’s just a teething rash, treatment for you baby's irritated skin is fairly straightforward.
If your child is developing a skin rash on their face, it might be isolated just around their lips or even spread across their cheeks. Some parents even notice a rise in diaper rash, which might be due to diarrhea that seems to accompany the teething rash.
Common symptoms include:
In most cases, the main giveaway that a child is teething are irritability and an increase in saliva or drooling. Any fever is usually short-lived and tends to be isolated to the day when the tooth actually pops through the gums.
Anytime a baby drools excessively or grabs at their mouth—both of which are common while teething—it can cause rash-like symptoms to spread elsewhere. Such as across your baby's chin, face, lips, neck, or upper torso. Sometimes the rash is from the moisture in their neck folds.
But if a “teething rash” takes over their whole body, chances are it’s not teething-related and is more likely a viral infection. Some of the most common types of rashes to develop in babies include things like a heat rash, impetigo, chickenpox, thrush, scarlet fever, roseola, and hand, foot, & mouth. Eczema, ringworm, and blocked oil glands are a few others.
If the rash is across their body but not around their mouth, it likely isn’t a teething rash at all.
Since baby teeth tend to erupt in pairs, it’s normal to have some extended symptoms of teething, rash or not, for longer than a week. Being that tooth eruption begins around age six months and concludes somewhere around the child’s 2nd birthday, it can be an on-and-off plethora of teething symptoms across an 18-month period, give or take a few months.
Depending on the type of your baby's teething rash, there are a couple of things you can do to help.
First, try to keep their face dry. If there is constantly saliva all over their mouth and face, they’re going to be more likely to develop some type of skin irritation.
Second, try putting socks or mittens over your baby’s hands. This will prevent them from scratching their face whenever they’re grabbing at their mouth or ears out of pain.
Finally, ask your pediatrician about which type of over-the-counter creams are safe to use on your baby’s skin for a rash. You do not want to use something that will get rubbed into their mouth and possibly be ingested, so always stick with your pediatrician’s recommendation.
Monitor your baby's rash to make sure it doesn’t spread elsewhere. If it does, call your pediatrician’s office.
Not every child develops rashes or viral-like symptoms when they’re teething. Some babies aren’t even fussy when their teeth are cutting through the gums. This period of your child’s development will require a lot of trial-and-error as you monitor their growth and how they respond to teething individually.
There’s not a lot you can do to prevent a teething rash that’s different than treating it. That is, keeping your baby’s mouth and face clean and dry. After they eat, be sure to clean around their mouth and lips. Use a soft cloth to absorb excess drool to keep your baby's skin clean and dry.
Likewise, be sure to clean anything that’s going inside of your baby’s mouth on a daily basis. Such as teething rings, pacifiers, or other toys they like to chew on, as they may harbor bacteria.
The best option for minimizing teething pain is to give your baby something clean and cool to chew on. A refrigerated teething ring is a great example. Don’t dip it in anything sweet, though. You can also use a clean, cool, wet washcloth over your finger to gently rub their gums to temporarily ease irritation.
Since some kids experience loose stools when they’re teething, it’s fairly common to see a rise in diaper rash, especially if they have more frequent bowel movements throughout the day as a result.
Take a deep breath! Do your best to make sure they’re in a fresh diaper as early as possible. And consider applying a diaper paste or cream at each change, even if they don’t normally develop diaper rash. It’s easier (and more comfortable for your baby) to help prevent the need for teething rash treatment than it is to tackle a major, painful diaper rash flare-up.
If your baby is developing a teething rash on their face, double-check to make sure it’s not anywhere else on their body. Especially their torso, hands, or feet. A teething rash isn’t as common as what most people suspect, so it’s more important to rule out other types of viral infections than assume it’s related to teething.
The longest a teething rash should last is during that 8-day window we discussed earlier when the teeth are actively erupting. Anything longer than that needs to be checked by your pediatrician. In all honesty, any rash that’s been there for more than a day or two (and isn’t isolated to the mouth or face) needs to be checked by your pediatrician. It’s just not worth it to assume it’s something as simple as a teething rash.
Can teething cause a rash? The jury is still out on how accurate teething-related side effects and ailments are in infants. But some older studies do link teething rash to when babies cut their teeth. The good news is that usually, the symptoms subside within about a week. The bad news is if you wait that long to see a doctor about major illnesses like rashes, diarrhea, or a fever, you run the risk of missing something serious.
Always consult with your pediatrician and pediatric dentist. Make sure your baby sees a dentist by the time their first tooth erupts. The peace of mind in and of itself is worth it!
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