Teething is a natural process that every infant goes through. It can be an uncomfortable experience, and it can be concerning for parents and caregivers to see the infant experiencing pain and discomfort.
The symptoms of teething vary from one infant to another. Some babies do not have any symptoms at all when their teeth come in. Others may become mildly irritable, begin to drool, lose their appetite, or cry more than usual. In some cases, vomiting and fever can accompany teething.
Many people believe that vomiting while teething is normal. However, most experts now agree that teething does not cause generalized symptoms, such as vomiting, fever, rash, and diarrhea.
The caregivers of infants who experience vomiting when teething should visit a doctor or pediatrician to determine the underlying cause of this symptom.
Teething occurs when an infant’s teeth first begin to break through the gums. This typically takes place between the ages of 6 and 12 months.
The two front teeth on the lower jaw usually appear first, with the other front teeth following. Molars are next to break through in most cases, with the canines arriving last.
By the age of 3 years, children usually have their full set of 20 baby teeth.
As it takes place over such a broad timespan, parents and caregivers often attribute many symptoms to teething. However, it is more likely that another condition, such as an infection, is causing these additional symptoms.
It can be helpful to understand which symptoms are normal and which are not when it comes to teething.
Typical symptoms of teething include:
- chewing on objects
- crying more than usual
- mild difficulty sleeping
- drooling more than usual
- loss of appetite
- red, sore, tender, or swollen gums
- a slight rise in body temperature (not over 101°F)
Research suggests that the symptoms of teething peak as the front teeth appear, which tends to occur between 6 and 16 months of age. As children get older, they are likely to experience fewer and milder symptoms when new teeth come through.
Teething does not typically cause the following symptoms:
- a cough
- high fever
- increased number of stools
- refusal of liquids
Vomiting can occur at the same time as symptoms of teething.
Parents and caregivers often attribute vomiting to the teething, but the symptoms are not usually related.
An analysis of research from eight countries reports that teething may make infants feel uncomfortable, but it is unlikely to make them vomit. By assuming that teething causes vomiting or fever, doctors or caregivers may be overlooking the real cause of the sickness.
A paper published in Pediatrics in Review emphasizes that an infant will be teething at the same point in their life that they begin to get exposure to many childhood illnesses. Also, the passive immunity that the mother passed on to them in the womb decreases at this time.
As a result, it is likely that vomiting during this time is due to a bacterial or viral infection. Several illnesses may cause an infant to vomit, including:
- common cold or flu
- ear infection
- gastroenteritis or another stomach infection
- urine infection
Sometimes, a food allergy or intolerance may cause vomiting. A doctor can help diagnose food sensitivities so that children can begin to avoid any foods that make them unwell.
Vomiting is not usually a cause for concern, and this symptom will generally pass quickly. However, people can aid recovery by:
- keeping the child hydrated
- letting them rest
- resuming their typical diet once 12–24 hours have passed since they last vomited
It is essential to call a doctor if any of the following symptoms accompany vomiting:
- a persistent rash
- refusal of liquids
- severe irritability
- shortness of breath
- signs of dehydration, including dry mouth, lack of tears, and fewer wet nappies than usual
- sleeping more than usual
- a swollen stomach
People should also take a child to see the doctor if vomiting persists for more than 12 hours or if the child is vomiting with great force.
If an infant is experiencing the typical symptoms of teething, it is possible to treat them at home. Treatments include:
- Drying off drool: Excessive drool can cause skin irritation. Use a clean cloth to remove excess drool from the chin and mouth area gently. Applying a fragrance-free cream or ointment may also soothe irritated skin.
- Massage: Gently rub the gums with a clean finger or moistened gauze pad to alleviate pain, discomfort, and tenderness.
- Cool temperatures: Apply a cold compress, chilled spoon, or teething ring to the gums. Never give an infant a frozen teething ring as this may cause more harm than good.
- Hard foods: Infants who are on solid foods may get relief from chewing on a piece of chilled cucumber or carrot. Monitor them carefully while they are eating as small pieces of food are a choking hazard.
- Over-the-counter (OTC) medication: Children who are particularly irritable may benefit from an OTC pain reliever. Options include acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Children’s Motrin). Do not use pain relievers for more than a day or two without a doctor’s advice.
It is advisable to avoid using topical pain relievers as these wash off the gums too quickly. Also steer clear of products containing belladonna, lidocaine, or benzocaine. These products can be harmful if the child swallows them.
If a child does have one of these products, seek immediate medical care if they experience:
- breathing difficulties
- difficulty urinating
- excessive fatigue
- muscle weakness
Parents and caregivers can usually treat teething at home using simple remedies, such as cold compresses and massage. A dentist, doctor, or pediatrician can provide further advice on how to alleviate symptoms.
It is vital to visit a doctor if the child has a high fever, is particularly distressed, or displays other symptoms that are not typical of teething.
It is also important to seek medical attention for vomiting that persists for more than 12 hours or is particularly forceful. In these cases, there is likely to be another underlying cause, such as an infection or food allergy.