Teething is one of those anxiety-provoking stages that all babies go through. Unfortunately, teething has been blamed for almost anything untoward 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 for sure teething? Let’s consider the following:
Timing is important. Even though there are some babies whose teeth erupt early, for the most part majority of babies experience this around six to nine months of age. Hence, it is very unlikely that a two-month-old baby would be teething—unless you in fact see the whitish edge of the tooth erupting from the gums.
Typically, the first tooth to come in is the bottom, central one, followed by the upper 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 a quick pill for just about any ailment you can imagine. But at times, you just have to ask the question, do you absolutely want to put that chemical compound into your little baby’s mouth? If your gut says no, then you probably shouldn’t do it.
Avoid over-the-counter numbing medications. These OTC meds (Orajel, Baby Orajel, for example) have local anesthetic (benzocaine) that may be detrimental to your baby when ingested. The use of benzocaine gels for mouth and gum pain can lead to a rare but serious medical condition called methemoglobinemia. This condition may cause the amount of oxygen carried through the blood stream to become greatly reduced. In the most severe cases, methemoglobinemia can result in death.
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, moist, cold 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 requires closer attention. Do not simply attribute fever to possible teething, especially in babies less than three months old. If your baby develops fever at this age, call your doctor ASAP!
Diarrhea in infants is particularly serious due to higher risk of dehydration. Although your baby may be showing signs of teething, you should still call your doctor if the baby develops any type of loose, watery stools.
Too much drooling should not be dismissed. If drooling is accompanied by fussiness, poor appetite, or fever, it’s presumably not teething. Consult your doctor as soon as possible.
Teething is always a stressful situation that can sometimes keep us awake all night. But take comfort in the fact that it is also a natural process that does not need any special medication. While it is our instinct to ensure that our little ones are free from any sort of pain, in the case of teething, it is probably best to keep away from ineffective and even potentially hazardous remedies.