Can teething cause a fever?
A raised temperature often seems to come at the same time as your baby’s teething – but are the 2 things actually related?
By Rachel Mostyn
According to many parents a fussy, cranky and drooling baby can all be classic signs that your little one may be teething.
They might also be off their food, have flushed cheeks and just be generally a bit teary. With so many different symptoms and the general feeling that your baby just isn’t ‘right’, a bout of teething can be a really tricky time.
“My poor little man has awful teething pain – he is so grizzly and out of sorts, pulling at his ears constantly,” says Ruth77 over on our forum.
Hails1982 has also had so many different symptoms to deal with: “He has constantly got his hands in his mouth and dribbling loads.
“He is a bit flushed in the cheeks, has nappy rash and has had looser poo than usual. He also has a little bit of a snuffly nose but it doesn’t seem like a cold as it comes and goes, generally not as happy in the day and he is waking up at night crying which he never does (even when he is hungry he just wakes and makes little chomping noises).”
The list really does seem endless! But what if your baby also has a fever? Can this be a sign of teething too, or might there be something else going on?
Does teething cause a fever?
“A fever is classed as your baby’s temperature being 38C or over,” explains GP Dr Diana Gall, Medical Director from doctor-4-u.co.uk.
“Mums and dads have associated teething with a fever for decades, but there isn’t actually a link between the two things at all.
“Babies around the age of teething are often prone to picking up colds and viruses, so if your child has a temperature of 38C or higher, it’s likely that they’re poorly, but it’s highly unlikely that teething would be the cause,” she says.
But while there may be no evidence of teething being associated with fevers, something the NHS backs up too, there are still lots of parents on our forum that are convinced their baby’s high temperature is as a result of teething.
“My daughter used to get a high temperature when teething,” says Munchkin
“Isaac ALWAYS got a fever when he was teething and tended to sleep more too, along with the normal moaning and restlessness,” says Nimmy82 on the forum. “When I said something to my health visitor she said fever was not a symptom.”
If teething’s not causing a fever, what’s actually happening?
One explanation for what so many parents seem to be experiencing could be that while your baby is not actually running a fever, they may have a slightly higher temperature than normal.
“While teething won’t cause a fever, it may raise your baby’s body temperature slightly,” says Dr Gall.
“A normal temperature is around the 36.4C mark, and a fever is classed as 38C or above. However, if your child’s temperature is higher than normal but not at 38C, it’s possible that the teething could explain the raised temperature.”
Lou66 has had this experience with her baby, “My little one only has 2 teeth which both cut within 24 hours of each other, but for the 2 weeks before and one week following them cutting he had a raised temperature every day, foul nappies and vomiting.”
Sarahboo’s experience was similar: “Isla has really not been herself; very high temperature, this week a runny nose and generally being miserable and sleeping loads.
“She has 8 teeth now, all at the front, so I can only assume she’s getting one of her molars through now. Who would have thought cutting some teeth could affect them so much!”
Can I use medicine for teething even if there’s no fever?
While there may not be evidence that a fever is caused by teething, what you will no doubt have to deal with is your little one potentially being in pain.
“Teething is uncomfortable and can be painful, so your baby might not seem quite like themselves,” confirms Dr Gall.
You can give your child pain relief to try and alleviate the symptoms of teething, even when there isn’t a fever, as medicines like ibuprofen can be used for both reducing pain and / or to bring down a fever (see more on the NHS website).
“Paracetamol and ibuprofen are an option as long as they’re specially formulated for children, and suitable for children over 3 months old,” says Dr Gall.
These medicines can help relieve pain and reduce fever. If you aren’t sure whether you should give these to your baby, ask your pharmacist for advice.
And as well as managing the pain, always make sure you keep your little one is drinking enough.
“If you baby is teething and has a raised temperature it’s important to make sure they’re well hydrated.
“Usually, this is through breast milk or formula, but depending on their age, you may also be able to give them some water,” says Dr Gall.
How long will teething pain last?
Seeing your little one suffering is one of the hardest things about parenthood and, unfortunately, with teething pain it can take a bit of time before your baby is back to normal.
“The slightly high temperature that can be caused by teething usually lasts around a week. They generally start a few days before the tooth erupts, and last for a few days after,” says Dr Gall.
And sadly, as we know, there are multiple teeth too so this will come and go, perhaps until your baby is around 2 and a half.
When to see a doctor
As ever, if you are worried you should contact your GP or if it is less urgent contact NHS 111 for advice. Whatever you do, don’t suffer in silence.