Teething is the process where your child begins to have teeth appear in their mouth. Teeth usually come through the gums and appear between six months and 2 ½ years of age.
Teething doesn’t cause fever, but there are several symptoms your child may have. Your child may be fussy, have lots of drooling, or attempt to rub their gums when teething.
Your child may have a fever and be teething at the same time. That’s because infants and toddlers frequently have viruses that cause fever.
Fever in an infant or toddler can be worrisome — with parents and caregivers often looking for a cause. Teething is thought to be a common cause of fever in infants over 6 months old. But before you blame their sharp, new teeth, you might want to look for another cause of your child’s fever. Teething can cause many different symptoms that may mimic sickness, but fever isn’t one of them.
Teething is a natural process in a child that can happen at the same time as frequent viral infections. So, it may seem like teething is causing illness. But teething doesn’t make a child sick. While teething is a constant occurrence in infants and toddlers, so are viral infections.
Childrenbegin teething around 6 months of age. About 4 teeth come through the gums every 6 months until all 20 primary (baby) teeth are in. This usually happens by 2 ½ years of age.
Starting around 6 months of age, the immunity a child gets from its mother to fight infections drops. Their own immune system begins to develop, but it takes time. Infants and toddlers getan average of 8 to 10 viral infections before the age of 2. It’s not uncommon for your child to have an illness at the same time they are teething.
A fever is a sign the body is trying to fight infection. Since germs can only live in a certain temperature range, the immune system raises the body’s temperature to kill the virus or bacteria. If your child has a fever, it is likely due to a general illness. The normal process of teething does not cause a fever.
The teething process can vary for each child. Although parents associate certain symptoms with teething, there is no good evidence to support this.
In one study, there were many symptoms associated with teething, but none were consistent. The symptoms parents associate with teething the most are:
Biting or increased sucking
Tugging at the ears
A rash on the face
Less intake of solid foods
But none of these symptoms occurred in more than one-third of teething infants. The only thing you should reliably expect when your baby is teething, is teeth.
If your child is just fussy, it may be hard to know. When your child has other symptoms, it may help to give a clue. There are no consistent symptoms of teething, but you may see that your child is drooling and biting on objects more often. Teething doesn’t cause symptoms like diarrhea, coughing, or fevers. These are more likely symptoms of an illness.
If your child has a fever, their body is probably trying to fight an infection. The fever is a sign your child has a healthy immune system and it is doing what it’s supposed to do. If your baby has fever or symptoms of an illness, you should let their medical provider know so they can find the cause.
Whether or not your child is teething, the treatment of a fever is the same. Over-the-counter medicines canhelp your child feel comfortable. It takes about 30 minutes for any fever reducing medicine to work, and the maximum effect happens within 1 hour.
Let your provider know if your child has fever. If the fever persists or is above 102.2°F (39°C), a medical provider will need to look for an infection.
A fever signals your child is sick. And you should never assume teething is the cause. Any temperature above 100.4°F in children under 3 months is concerning. And it may be a medical emergency.
In children 3 months or older, a temperature higher than 102.2°F (39°C) may be cause for concern. In either case, these children should be looked at by a medical provider to rule out a serious cause of infection.
In any child with fever, you should let a provider know if:
There are repeated temperatures above 104°F (40°C)
Your child is very fussy, looks very ill, or is difficult to awaken
Your child has neck pain, headache, trouble breathing, an unexplained rash, serious vomiting, or diarrhea
Your child has problems with their immune system (such as HIV or cancer) or blood problems (such as sickle cell disease)
Your child has a seizure
The fever lasts for more than 3 days
Symptoms seem to be getting worse
Fevers are common while your infant is teething, but it’s usually because of an illness. Teething itself does not cause fevers. When your child is fussy, sometimes it’s hard to tell if it’s because of teething or sickness. But other symptoms like fever, can be a clue that there’s a sickness brewing.
If your child has a fever, never assume that it’s because of teething. Instead, let a healthcare provider know. They can give you the next steps you need to take in caring for your child.
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Jain, P., et al. (2022). Anatomy, head and neck, tooth eruption. StatPearls.
Macknin, M. L., et al. (2000). Symptoms associated with infant teething: A prospective study. Pediatrics.
MedlinePlus. (2016). Fever.
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Song, D., et al. (2021). Passive and active immunity in infants born to mothers with SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy: prospective cohort study. BMJ Open.
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