Teething is one of those anxiety-provoking stages that all babies experience. Unfortunately, teething has been blamed for just about anything bad that happens to babies such as fever, cough and colds, vomiting, diarrhea, and so on.
So first, let’s dismiss the myths about teething:
- Teething does not cause fever.
- Teething does not cause cough and cold symptoms.
- Teething does not cause diarrhea or loose stools.
Second, is your baby actually teething? Let’s go over the following:
- Timing is important. Even though there are some infants whose teeth come in early, for the most part majority of babies experience this around six to nine months of life. Therefore, it is very unlikely that a two-month-old baby would be teething—unless you actually see the whitish edge of the tooth erupting from the gums.
- Usually, the first tooth to come in is the bottom, central one, followed by the top central one.
- Drooling in babies is not a reliable indicator of teething. Four-month-olds usually drool a lot with or without any tooth erupting.
So what can you do when your baby is teething?
First, do no harm. Didn’t you “survive” long ago without any of the fancy medicines we now have available at any convenience store? These days, there is practically a quick pill for just about anything you can imagine. But sometimes, you just have to ask the question, do you absolutely want to put that chemical compound into your little baby’s mouth? If it gives you pause, then you probably shouldn’t do it.
- Keep away from over-the-counter numbing medications. These quick-fix meds (Orajel, Baby Orajel, for example) have local anesthetic (benzocaine) which may be harmful to your baby when swallowed. The use of benzocaine gels for mouth and gum pain can lead to a rare but serious medical condition called methemoglobinemia. This disorder may cause the amount of oxygen carried through the blood stream to become significantly diminished. In the most severe cases, methemoglobinemia can be fatal.
- Likewise, avoid homeopathic teething tablets. They typically do not work and may contain harmful substances that can make your child ill.
- It is safer to use a cool (not frozen) teething toy or a clean, cold, moist wash cloth for your baby to gnaw on to soothe his or her gums.
- Sometimes (with the advice of your physician) an appropriate dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen (for babies six months and older), may help.
- Any baby product that has not been evaluated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) should definitely not get near your baby’s mouth. So always read what the fine print says.
Pitfalls you should avoid:
- Fever in babies deserves closer attention. Do not simply attribute fever to possible teething, especially in infants less than three months of age. If your child develops fever at this age, call your doctor right away!
- Diarrhea in infants is particularly serious due to higher risk of dehydration. Even though your baby may be showing signs of teething, you should still consult your physician if the baby develops any type of loose, watery stools.
- Too much drooling should not be dismissed. If drooling is accompanied by irritability, decreased appetite, or fever, it’s presumably not teething. Consult your doctor right away.
Teething is always a worrisome situation that can sometimes keep us awake all through the night. But take comfort in the fact that it is also a natural process that does not require any special treatment. While it is our instinct to protect our little ones from any sort of pain, in the case of teething, it is probably best to keep away from unproven and even potentially harmful remedies.