WebMD Health News
Laura J. Martin, MD
Aug. 8, 2011 -- Teething and fever don't usually go together, according to new research.
That may come as a surprise to both parents and doctors, says researcher Joana Ramos-Jorge, a PhD student in pediatric dentistry at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
She polled the parents of 47 Brazilian infants, ages 5 to 15 months, while the infants were teething, to see what symptoms accompanied it.
"The most significant result of this study was that fever and primary tooth eruption aren't associated," Ramos-Jorge says in an email interview.
Based on that finding, she says, parents and doctors should not automatically blame teething for a high fever. It may be related to something else, and that needs to be investigated, she says.
She did find some common symptoms of teething, such as increased saliva. And these symptoms usually appear the day the tooth eruption begins, making it difficult to predict teething.
Her study is published online in Pediatrics.
The infants in the study had up to seven erupted teeth when the study started. They did not have a history of conditions that could cause symptoms related to teething.
The researchers visited the infants' homes daily over an eight-month period. They took the babies' temperature inside the ear and under the arm. The researchers asked the mothers to describe any symptoms their baby had in the last 24 hours.
The symptoms were recorded every day on a chart. It was also noted on a daily basis if the tooth was erupting or not.
In all, 231 teeth erupted during the study. On average, each baby had nearly five teeth erupt. The temperature, when taken both by ear and armpit, rose slightly on eruption days.
However, teething and fever were not linked. The highest temperature recorded was 98 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a rectal reading of 100.4 degrees or less or an oral reading of 99 degrees or less is considered normal.
Most common symptoms of teething reported by the parents included:
Other symptoms reported were diarrhea, rash, and sleep problems.
The new findings duplicate those of some previous research, says Rhea M. Haugseth, DMD, a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. She is a pediatric dentist in Marietta, Ga.
Even so, she does think most parents would be surprised to know fever isn't found to be linked with teething.
"If a child has a fever and is teething at the same time, parents need to be looking at other potential causes of that fever," she tells WebMD. She reviewed the findings for WebMD.
In her experience, she finds babies most often have crankiness and increased saliva. Some have diarrhea.
However, some babies may have a mild fever, she says.
To help teething pain, she says parents should not use topical gels. There is a risk of toxicity, she says.
Instead, she advises parents to offer the child a teething ring or a cold washcloth to chew on.
In a safety announcement from April 2011, the FDA states that over-the-counter gels and liquids with the ingredient benzocaine should not be used on children under age 2 unless supervised by a health care professional.
SOURCES:Rhea M. Haugseth, DMD, spokeswoman, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry; pediatric dentist, Marietta, Ga.Joana Ramos-Jorge, BDS, PhD student, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil.Ramos-Jorge, J. Pediatrics, published online Aug. 8, 2011.
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