Instead of cutting sharp, thin incisors, toddlers cut molars during their second year of life. These large, flat teeth take longer than the previous teeth to break through the gums, often causing increased pain and irritability. Old wives' tales attribute a broad range of symptoms to teething, from seizures and to vomiting and diarrhea, but pediatrics authorities today believe teething causes only mild symptoms, such as drooling and low-grade fever.
The connection between a low-grade fever and teething is long-standing, but the medical community remains somewhat divided on the issue. Many pediatricians, including Dr. Alan Greene and Dr. Larissa Hirsch of KidsHealth.org, suggest teething causes a low-grade fever. However, Seattle Children's Hospital pediatrician Wendy Sue Swanson asserts that fevers and teething are not likely connected. Medical authorities agree that high fever, vomiting and diarrhea are not part of the normal teething process.
If your child develops a fever over 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the teething process, contact your pediatrician. Temperatures over 100 rarely develop due to teething alone, and it is likely your child contacted a virus or another type of illness. Young toddlers might chew on their hands and any hard objects they locate while teething—leading to increased exposure to many illness-causing germs.
Even if teething fails to produce a high fever or other serious medical symptoms, never discount how uncomfortable the process is for some toddlers. Teething can interfere with your toddler’s normal sleep patterns, leading him to wake up early or fall asleep later than normal. It can also lead to finicky eating habits.
Alleviate your toddler’s teething pain by giving her something cold to chew on—a bagel, chilled applesauce or frozen banana can relieve pain while offering nourishment. Chilled teething rings or an ice cube wrapped in a washcloth might also offer some relief. Talk to your pediatrician about giving your child acetaminophen or another child-safe pain reliever at night to help him sleep.
While loose stools, mucus, ear pain and low-grade fever might result from the process of teething, never chalk these symptoms up to teething without first contacting your pediatrician. These symptoms might indicate serious medical concerns—diarrhea can quickly lead to dehydration in toddlers, and a high fever can potentially lead to febrile seizures and other complications if not promptly diagnosed and treated.