Teething Fever: Is Your Baby Sick or Just Cutting Teeth?

Teething might raise your baby’s temperature, but usually not enough to be considered a fever. Here’s how to tell if your child is teething or sick.

baby chewing on a toy
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While a baby's first chompers are undeniably adorable, the teething journey can be tedious for parents. Babies usually cut their first tooth around 4 to 6 months, and they continue teething on-and-off until age 2 or 3.

You can expect symptoms that can range from drooling and fussiness to night wakings, face rashes, and gum irritation. This might be caused by gum inflammation as teeth cut through delicate gum tissues. But can babies get a fever from teething? Here's what parents need to know.

Does Teething Cause Fever?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), babies may have a "very slight increase in temperature" whenever they're growing a new tooth. It's important to note, though, that this so-called "teething fever" isn't usually high enough to be considered an actual fever, which is 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.

Additionally, a 2022 article in the British Dental Journal also explains that there some debate over if the "fever" that teething induces is actually the immune system reacting as the baby reaches an age where they are exposed to more germs as they grow and venture away from their primary parent and explore more around them. The journal noted that there is concern that parents and even doctors may overlook actual sicknesses and assume the baby is just teething.

The bottom line? Teething may cause a slight fever in your baby, but any high fever warrants a call to your doctor.

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:

  • Drooling
  • 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
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • 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. It's always a good idea to make sure you're ruling out actual sicknesses and not just assuming your baby's symptoms are teething. Symptoms like runny nose, diarrhea, and sneezing aren't usually associated with baby or toddler teething, says Dr. Lasky.

Updated by
Nicole Harris
Nicole Harris, SEO Editor
Nicole Harris is the Editor at Parents. She joined the team in 2018 as a Staff Writer and was promoted to SEO Editor in 2021. She now covers everything from children's health to parenting trends. Nicole's writing has appeared in Martha Stewart Weddings, Good Housekeeping, The Knot, BobVila.com, and other publications. A graduate of Syracuse University, Nicole currently lives in New Jersey with her husband.
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