You might see your baby’s cheeks and chin go red during teething. Here we explain what to look out for, what’s harmless and when to worry.
There is a rash associated with teething – all that excess drool irritates their skin (Lyttle et al, 2015). And while this in itself might cause your baby some mild discomfort, it isn’t anything to worry about.
Yet contrary to popular belief, teething hasn’t been proven to cause flushed, feverish cheeks in babies (Markman, 2009). This might surprise some of you.
The fact is, they’re more susceptible to a wide range of illnesses and infections at this age (Lyttle et al, 2015). So it’s particularly important to see your doctor, particularly if they have a raised temperature as well (Markman, 2009; NICE, 2014; Lyttle et al, 2015).
So what does all this mean?
1. You can soothe genuine teething rash
This is because your baby’s dribble is what’s causing their teething rash (Lyttle et al, 2015). And that can be easily mopped up. By the bucket load it sometimes seems.
Try gently wiping their face and chin to help stop them getting a rash, and even cracks on the sides of their mouth (Lyttle et al, 2015). Be careful not to over-wipe or rub your baby’s face, tempting as it is, because this can make the area even more sore (Family Lives, 2018).
"Put a bib on them to catch the drool, it also doubles as a handy cloth for wiping your baby’s face."
You could also rub some petroleum jelly on the area before you go outside to protect it from the elements, and before bed (Family Lives, 2018).
Did you know? All that dribble pouring from their mouth during teething has antibacterial properties when it mixes with breastmilk? This boosts your baby’s immune system (Al-Shehri, 2015). Clever huh? Read our article on how to breastfeed babies who have teeth.
2. If it’s not irritated skin, it’s important to get to the cause of their flushed cheeks
This is because there could be a more serious illness at play. This is UNLIKELY TO BE just a teething rash.
One study closely monitored the temperature of babies in the days before, during and after they had a tooth appear. It found no rise in their temperatures, which shows that teething doesn’t necessarily cause a fever (Wake et al, 2000). Other sources say only a very mild rise in temperature (under 38°C) might be teething, but your baby shouldn’t be unwell because of it (NICE, 2014; Harding et al, 2016).
So, if your baby’s cheeks are flushed and they’ve got a fever (over 38°C), visit your GP to rule out a more serious cause rather than assume it’s caused by a pesky emerging tooth (Wake, 2002; Sarrell et al, 2005; Tighe and Roe, 2007; Ramos-Jorge et al, 2011; NICE, 2014; Eisenstadt et al, 2017). See our article on what to do if your baby has a temperature.
Other common conditions that should be ruled out if your teething baby has a fever include: croup; a respiratory or urinary tract infection; meningitis; oral herpes; constipation; or gastroenteritis (Community Practitioner, 2011; NICE, 2014).
James thought his son Alfie, 14 months, was teething, but…
‘We thought he was teething really badly and had a mild cold but no more than that - his molars were coming through. We were on holiday at the time and tried to keep him happy, but he became more and more unwell. We ended up going to the doctor and they packed us off to hospital, where we spent the night.
‘After investigation he was diagnosed with a rare infection. We're so glad we went to the doctor – it's true what they say about knowing your own child. Never be embarrassed about going to the doctors. Thankfully, he is a very well and happy little boy now.
I know this was a bad luck case, but even if your child has developed something more common like an ear infection, it is still so painful for them and should be checked out just in case.’
Find out more about how to deal with teething
Teething can be a frustrating and confusing time for you and your baby. There’s nothing worse than seeing your little one miserable and in pain. For ideas on how to soothe their sore gums so they can be back to their old selves quickly, read this article.
This page was last reviewed in September 2018.
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.
You might find attending one of NCT's Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.
Read more about fever in children from the NHS.
For more information on what other illnesses may be causing their fever, this article from NICE is very useful.
NCT has partnered with the British Red Cross to offer courses in baby first aid.
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