Every time a baby has a moment of discomfort, old wives from every corner of the world shout, "They must be teething!" But there are also plenty of myths surrounding teething symptoms. Parents worry that everything from fevers and diarrhea in babies can be from teething. My own son is 19 months and still doesn’t have all of his teeth, but when he’s teething, I feel like he becomes a different child. I’m sure it’s super uncomfortable, but he's fussy, has a bad temper, and is kind of like a tiny drunk terrorist. And when I’m telling my relatives about it, they always, without fail, ask me if he has diarrhea, a runny nose, fever, or all of the above. “Because if he does, it’s definitely teething.”
Apparently diarrhea, runny noses, and fevers from teething are just more of those old wives’ tales that get passed down through generations. And my mind is blown. All of those runny diapers? You can probably stop attributing those to teething.
Dr. Gina Posner, a board-certified pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, tells Romper in an email interview, “The studies show that you don’t get diarrhea from teething. The increase in saliva could technically cause diarrhea, but the actual studies don’t find a connection. And the runny nose isn’t true either. Studies also don’t show an increase in runny noses when teething. Lots of infants have colds frequently, so many times this is just from a cold that coincides with teeth breaking out.”
And even though babies may feel a bit warmer when they’re teething, as far as a “true fever,” which is 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s not from teething, says Dr. Danelle Fisher, pediatrician and vice chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. Posner also says that it may be another viral process going on at the same time.
As for some ways to soothe teething pains for your baby so you all can get some much needed rest, Fisher recommends "chewing on cool things like teething rings stored in the refrigerator, or a washcloth with cold water is the best way to manage teething discomfort. If a baby is fussy at night due to teething discomfort, it is safe to give acetaminophen. They may also take ibuprofen if they are older than 6 months of age.”
So while teething doesn’t cause diarrhea, runny noses, or fevers, it does cause a lot of stress and discomfort for the entire family. But if you notice your baby has a ton of runny, diarrhea-like diapers, it might be time to give your pediatrician a call.
Dr. Gina Posner, a board certified pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California.
Dr. Danelle Fisher, pediatrician and vice chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California.