“Signs and Symptoms of Primary Tooth Eruption: a Meta-Analysis,” a March 2016 study in Pediatrics that analyzed data from ten major studies in eight separate countries, states that while teething can be miserable for babies, it will not cause fevers. The symptoms of teething include irritability, drooling, and gum pain. While a baby may experience a slight rise in body temperature as well, it is not enough of an increase to be thought of as a fever. A temperature of at least 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) is considered to be a fever in a child.
Those behind the study on teething and fever want to get the word out because they fear that a parent may mistake a fever as a symptom of teething and ignore it as the more likely sign of an underlying infection or illness.
Teething is, of course, a natural part of a baby’s life, and most children start the process at the age of approximately six months. Usually, the two bottom front teeth emerge first. Some of the most troubling symptoms of teething occur between this time and 16 months old. This is usually around the time the primary incisors erupt. As a child ages, these symptoms decrease.
Comparing Teething and Fever Side-by-side
Here is a quick comparison of teething symptoms and signs of fever, as well as a primer on the reasons why children get fevers.
Teething usually causes chewing on random objects, gum pain, fussiness, insomnia, drooling, and an irritation rash on the face caused by the saliva. Teething is not only unrelated to fever, but it also has no ties to diarrhea, runny noses, or diaper rash.
Conversely, a child is probably fighting an actual infection if he or she is shivering, has chills, doesn’t feel like eating, or is sweating, dehydrated, weak, or achy. When these symptoms appear, it is pertinent to take the child’s temperature. After all, a fever can be a sign of a viral or bacterial infection, so it should be monitored. However, it can even be attributed to something as simple as heat exhaustion.
Treating Teething Symptoms
Teething can be awful for babies, but there are some things that can be done to alleviate their pain. Rubbing their gums can really help diminish the rupturing sensation. A clean finger, a moist gauze pad, or even a cold spoon will do the job.
Another option is using rubber teething rings for the child to nibble on. They work even better if they are refrigerated for his or her comfort. They should not be put in the freezer, however. Freezing them can cause them to leak chemicals that can harm the baby. As such, any liquid-filled rings are also not advisable, since they also leak.
Numbing gels are no longer recommended due to their active ingredient, benzocaine, being linked to a rare condition called methemoglobinemia, which can be serious. Instead, a baby can be administered acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain.
If an infant has a fever, his or her symptoms can usually be treated at home. Simply keep the baby dressed in light clothing, give him or her a lukewarm sponge bath, make sure he or she has plenty of rest and an abundance of fluids. Oral rehydration solutions work well if the child is refusing milk or vomiting. The baby can also be given a dose of ibuprofen or acetaminophen to break the fever.
If an infant is under three months, any type of fever, no matter how low-grade, can be serious. His or her parents should contact the child’s pediatrician immediately. For babies older than three months, but under two years old, the doctor should be consulted only if they have a fever above 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) or any fever that persists longer than 24 hours.
Other Reasons for Fevers
Most of the time, fevers are benign, but there times when a high temperature can be indicative of a more serious condition, such as an immune system disorder, a certain type of cancer, or a reaction to an immunization. If a baby has a temperature and is also extraordinarily irritable or drowsy, or has a stiff neck or a seizure, or is in severe pain, he or she should immediately be brought to the local emergency room.