The Claim: A Fever in a Baby Is a Sign of Teething

By Anahad O’Connor
April 1, 2008
THE FACTS

An old wives’ tale says a feverish baby is not always a cause for concern. Chalk it up to teething, pay little mind and go back to sleep, the saying goes.

But experts suggest otherwise. While the emergence of new teeth in infants under 1 year old can sometimes cause a slight increase in body temperature, studies show it does not generally cause a high-grade fever. The symptoms can be a sign of a serious problem like a viral illness.

In 2000, a Cleveland Clinic team published a study in Pediatrics that followed 125 children from 4-month doctor visit to 1st birthday. In that time, 475 tooth eruptions occurred, and the study found many symptoms in the roughly eight-day periods in which the teeth emerged like increased biting, drooling, gum rubbing, facial rash and decreased appetite. But no teething children had a high-grade fever, 104 degrees or above.

A later study in Pediatrics followed children 6 to 30 months old, with the same conclusion. There was no link between teething and body temperature or high fever. “Before caregivers attribute any infants’ signs or symptoms of a potentially serious illness to teething,” the first study said, “other possible causes must be ruled out.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

Studies show high fevers are generally not a teething symptom and may be more serious.