Dehydration and Teething in an Infant

The teething process can cause infants a great deal of pain. Sometimes the pain is so intense that infants refuse to feed, which puts them at a greater risk of developing dehydration. Dehydration occurs when an infant takes in less water than the amount leaving his body. Since getting early treatment for infant dehydration is important, you should take the time to learn how to spot the signs of dehydration so you can seek treatment when necessary.

A young mother is holding an infant. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Signs of Teething

When your baby begins to feel a tooth coming in, he may be fussier than usual. Some babies may simply whine a bit more than usual, while others may be much more vocal. Babies who are teething often gnaw on whatever they can get their hands on, which may include their own fingers or toes, their toys or even you. You may notice that your infant wakes more often during the night, has bulging gums or is drooling more than usual. Infants may also develop a low-grade fever, diarrhea or a cough when they are teething. Some babies refuse to nurse or bottle-feed, since the sucking pressure may worsen their teething pain. Refusing to nurse or bottle-feed may lead to dehydration.

Signs of Dehydration

If your infant is teething and refusing to eat, it is important to monitor her for signs of dehydration. Although irritability and fussiness are common teething signs, they are also signs of dehydration in an infant. Dry mouth or lips, sunken eyes and going more than 6 hours without having a wet diaper are also signs of infant dehydration. When a dehydrated infant does urinate, the urine will often smell stronger and be darker than usual. Severe dehydration can produce lethargy, splotchy or cold extremities or cause the soft spot on your infant's head to sink. In extreme cases, infants with dehydration may become comatose.

Treatment for Teething

If you believe your baby's dehydration is a result of his refusal to eat due to teething pain, try treating the pain; once the pain eases, he might be more inclined to nurse or feed from a bottle. It may be useful to freeze a washcloth or teething toy for him to gnaw on, as the coldness may temporarily numb his pain. You can also use a clean finger to massage his gums gently. An over-the-counter pain medication may be appropriate, but check with a doctor first. Using a numbing gel specifically designed for teething babies may also prove useful. However, these gels often numb other parts of the baby's mouth and it is possible for a baby to swallow too much, so they should be used as a last resort, recommends AskDrSears.com.

Treatment for Dehydration

Infant dehydration is a serious condition that should be treated as quickly as possible. If your baby is just starting to show symptoms and seems to have only a mild case of dehydration, ask your doctor if it appropriate to treat the condition at home. Some doctors may recommend giving breast milk or formula to the infant through a syringe or by using a teaspoon until the teething pain subsides. Rehydrating beverages, which are commonly sold in drugstores and supermarkets, may also help. Common brands of rehydrating solutions for infants include Infalyte and Pedialyte. Infants who show signs of severe dehydration should not be treated at home and should be taken to the emergency room, where an intravenous tube can be used to rehydrate them quickly.

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