Can Teething Cause a Fever in Babies?
Teething might raise your baby’s temperature, but usually not enough to be considered a fever, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Here’s how to tell if your child is teething or sick.
While a baby’s first chompers are undeniably adorable, the teething journey can be tedious for moms and dads. You can expect plenty of drooling, fussiness, night wakings, face rashes, and gum irritation. But can babies get a fever from teething? Here’s what parents need to know.
Does Teething Cause Fever?
Babies usually cut their first tooth around 4 to 6 months, and they continue teething on-and-off until age 2 or 3. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), babies may have a “very slight increase in temperature” whenever they’re growing a new tooth. This might be caused by gum inflammation as teeth cut through delicate gum tissues.
It’s important to note, though, that this so-called “teething fever” isn’t usually high enough to be considered an actual fever (defined as any temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, taken rectally). A study published in the March 2016 issue of Pediatrics upheld these claims. Using data collected from 10 major studies, the researchers found “eruption of primary teeth is associated with a rise in temperature, but it was not characterized as fever,” according to the study.
This distinction is important because if a child develops a true fever, assuming that the cause is teething may lead doctors or parents to miss possible illness or infection that requires treatment.
Is Your Baby Teething or Sick?
Does your child have a low-grade fever? Some causes of fever require medical attention, so it’s important to examine their symptoms. Here’s how to tell if a rise in temperature indicates teething or something else.
Teething Fever Symptoms
A teething fever is usually low-grade—less than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. It may also be accompanied by the following symptoms of teething:
- Swollen gums
- Chewing and biting everything within reach
- Rubbing around their mouth, cheeks, and ears
- Irritability, especially at night
- Mouth rash
- Temporarily decreased appetite
Researchers from the March 2016 study found that symptoms of teething tended to peak during the emergence of a child's primary incisors or front teeth, which can occur between 6 and 16 months of age, and decreased as the child got older.
How long does teething fever last? In general, a teething fever will begin about one day before the tooth erupts, and it goes away after it cuts through the gums. There’s not much you can do to prevent or break a teething fever; your child's temperature will go down on its own within a couple of days.
Signs of Illness in Babies in Toddlers
It's not uncommon for children to get sick around the time they start teething—partly because open wounds in the gums make them more susceptible to catching bugs, says Jill Lasky, D.D.S., a pediatric dentist at Lasky Pediatric Dental Group in Los Angeles. The following symptoms may indicate that your child has a cold, ear infection, or other sickness, and it’s best to visit the pediatrician.
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Diaper rash
- Unexplained rash on the body
- Excessive crying or fussiness
- Unusual drowsiness
The symptoms of teething and sickness can sometimes be hard to differentiate. It’s also possible for your child to be teething and sick simultaneously. Always visit the pediatrician if you're unsure.
The Bottom Line
If your little one develops a temperature lower than 100.4 degrees while they’re cutting a tooth, it's probably not a cause for concern. But if it's higher than 101 degrees or accompanied by any other symptoms of illness, you should call your pediatrician. Symptoms like runny nose, diarrhea, and sneezing aren’t associated with baby or toddler teething, says Dr. Lasky.