Teething is the process where an infant’s teeth erupt through the gums. This can lead to various symptoms, such as mild fussiness and discomfort.
Many parents and caregivers report that fever is also a sign of teething. However, there is no scientific evidence to support this claim.
Fever may coincide with teething, but it likely indicates a separate health issue, such as an infection.
This article explores some reasons why teething and fever may occur together. We also outline the symptoms associated with teething, as well as those that are not. Finally, we provide tips on how to soothe teething discomfort, how to treat a fever, and when to see a doctor.
Seattle Children’s Hospital (SCH) warn that fever is not a sign of teething, but a symptom of infection. These infections typically occur more often when the child is 6–12 months of age. This coincides with the age where most children begin teething.
There are two main reasons why teething and infections occur at similar times:
- Increased exposure to new pathogens: At 6–12 months of age, the infant is sucking and chewing various objects as they explore their world by putting things in their mouth. This exposes them to new pathogens.
- Loss of antibodies: When infants are 6–12 months old, they begin to lose antibodies that their mother transfers to them during birth. This means their immune system has to respond to more infections, such as colds.
To summarize, fever may occur around the same time as teething. However, fever is a sign of infection, rather than a normal symptom of teething.
In infants, the definition of fever depends partly on their age and the method used to take their temperature. Medical professionals define fever as below:
- Infants younger than 3 months of age: Fever is a temperature of 100.4oF (38oC) and higher.
- Older infants and children: Fever is a temperature of 101.2oF (38.4oC) and higher.
Most babies begin teething at around 6 months of age. However, some babies can start as early as 4 months, while some commence teething as late as 12 months.
After the first set of teeth come through, infants will continue to get new teeth every couple of months.
Below are some symptoms babies may experience while teething.
Doctors assume some babies experience mild gum pain while teething. As the tooth erupts from the gum-line, it causes a break in the gum. This gum pain may be due to bacteria getting into the freshly broken gum.
However, as babies cannot specifically express that their gums hurt, experts cannot confirm that teething causes gum pain.
Crying and irritability
Mild gum pain and discomfort may cause irritability in some babies. In turn, this could lead to an increase in crying.
However, SCH notes that teething pain should not cause excessive crying. This amount of crying could signal an infection or other underlying issue.
A parent or caregiver may mistake certain signs of illness as normal symptoms of teething.
Some symptoms that are not associated with teething include:
An infant who displays any of these symptoms is likely unwell. If they have particularly severe symptoms, a parent or caregiver should take them to see a doctor as soon as possible.
Parents and caregivers can try the following strategies to help ease their infant’s teething discomfort:
- Nursing: Continuing to breastfeed the infant may help soothe them.
- Rubbing the gums: Use a clean finger to apply gentle pressure to the gums.
- Giving them something safe to chew on: A firm rubber teething ring may help ease teething discomfort. People should avoid offering liquid-filled teething rings because they can break, causing the liquid to leak into the infant’s mouth. A person should never leave their infant alone with any teething toy, as there is a risk they may choke on them.
- Asking a doctor for advice: If other remedies are not effective, talk to a doctor about over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Never give aspirin to an infant.
Below are some methods for teething discomfort that parents and caregivers should avoid.
Frozen teething rings
Some teething rings come with instructions for chilling in the fridge. While this is fine, people should not chill them in the freezer. A frozen teething ring can damage an infant’s gums.
Teething creams and gels
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend against using topical numbing creams and gels on a baby’s gums. These products are ineffective as they wash away quickly. Some also contain ingredients that can damage red blood cells, potentially poisoning and even killing an infant.
Teething beads, bracelets, or necklaces
Some parents believe amber teething necklaces reduce teething pain. They claim they release succinic acid, which eases inflammation. However, there is no evidence for this. The levels of succinic acid necessary to reduce inflammation are much higher than amber beads could release.
Amber beads are also dangerous. In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned parents that the beads can break, causing babies to choke. Teething bracelets and beads are dangerous for the same reason, while necklaces can also strangle babies.
A fever is a sign that the body is fighting an infection or disease. As such, it is not the fever itself that requires treatment, but the underlying issue.
However, Texas Children’s Hospital advises parents and caregivers to treat a fever that makes their child uncomfortable. They recommend the following remedies:
- offering an age- and weight-appropriate dose of acetaminophen, which people can determine by first consulting a doctor
- dressing an infant lightly, to avoid trapping excess body heat
- ensuring the infant drinks plenty of fluids
Call a doctor immediately if an infant is less than 3 months of age and has a fever of 100.4°F (30°C) or higher.
People should also call a doctor immediately if a child is older than 3 months of age and shows any of the following symptoms:
- inconsolable crying
- difficulty awakening
- unexplained rash
- severe vomiting or diarrhea
- weakness or lethargy
- a fever that repeatedly rises to 104°F (40°C) or higher
Teething is not dangerous. It resolves on its own in around 8 days. Typically, infants with teething symptoms may experience some pain for the 5 days before their teeth erupt, and for another 3 days after they surface.
However, babies teethe many times during their first few years of life. As such, it can be helpful for parents and caregivers to develop a way to manage teething symptoms.
All infants go through various stages of teething. Some will not experience any symptoms, while others may feel discomfort. These symptoms may last just over a week.
Fever is not a symptom of teething. Rather, it may indicate an infection or disease. Infants tend to develop infections and fever at around the same time they begin teething. This may be why some parents and caregivers mistakenly believe that fever is a sign of teething.
An infant who develops a fever may need to see a doctor, particularly if they show other signs or symptoms of illness.