It seems like everyone from grandmothers to many family doctors has supported the belief that teething babies tend to run fevers as new teeth come in. A new study out of Australia, however, claims to debunk this medical myth. Researchers at the Centre for Community Child Health at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne say that parents should never assume that their baby’s fever is related to teething.
Study authors also report that many of the other conditions commonly associated with teething, including sleep disturbances, congestion, changes to bowel movements, and infections were falsely attributed to cutting teeth. A study based in Cleveland, Ohio did find that teething can be linked to increased biting, drooling, gum-rubbing, irritability, wakefulness, ear-rubbing, facial rash and a decreased appetite for solid foods.
Wake says most infants and young children start teething between four and 24 months old. This time frame roughly coincides with the period, between six and 24 months, when young children experience most of their infections. And infections (especially viral ones) are the most common cause of fevers in young children.
Why this misconception? According to study leader Melissa Wake, babies start to get more infections from around six months of age, which is when teething generally begins and is when there is a decline in antibodies that they receive from their mother. She says that given that most children get scores of infections and 20 teeth during the first three years of life, it’s hardly surprising that these two events often coincide. Wake also points out that elementary school aged children also get many new teeth – but they don’t seem to complain of the side-effects that parents report in infants.
Researchers are concerned that some more serious health issues may be ignored, including urinary tract infections or pneumonia, because parents are blaming teething for all of their babies’ fevers. They also worry that pain relievers and oral soothing gels are offered to often, and, as Wake says, “No one wants babies to be taking unnecessary medication.”