Children generally gain full control over salivation by age 4. In some cases, excess salivation isn't anything to worry about, but it sometimes accompanies health conditions. When your child's body produces too much saliva, it often causes drooling, which can be embarrassing for parents and children. Treatment can help control excess saliva and make your child more comfortable.
Saliva is produced by three different glands in the mouth. At a young age, a child's muscles aren't fully developed so she doesn't have as much control over swallowing the saliva as older children do. Children under age 8 naturally produce more saliva than adults and older children. However, some health conditions can cause a child to salivate more than is typical. Gastroesophageal reflux disease, an infection in the mouth or throat, certain medications or inflammation in the mouth's membranes might cause excess saliva, notes MayoClinic.com.
Excess saliva might not seem like a huge problem, especially if it's the result of health problems. While it isn't likely to compromise a child's health, it can cause other issues. When the saliva isn't swallowed and runs down a child's chin regularly, it can irritate the skin in the area. This can cause itching, redness or broken skin that could lead to an infection. If saliva soaks his clothing, these skin problems can spread to the neck and chest. While you don't want to restrict normal saliva flow, controlling the excess prevents skin issues that could make a child uncomfortable.
In cases where excess saliva is associated with a health condition, treating and controlling that issue can help reduce saliva flow. For example, prescribing medications to control acid reflux. There are other ways to help slow the flow of saliva that work well for children. Some medications are available, in the form of pills, liquid or patches, that reduce the amount of saliva produced. Speech therapy is effective for teaching a child to close her lips and swallow her spit, and in some cases, surgery can reroute a child's salivary glands or destroy part of them to slow down production, according to KidsGrowth.com. Hypnosis or biofeedback are alternative forms of treatment that might help. Children might also need orthodontic or dental treatment if the cause of excessive salivation is due to an infection or inflammation in the mouth.
While medical intervention might be necessary in some cases of excessive salivation, some methods for treating the condition are appropriate for home. Make sure your child's nose isn't stuffed up because he'll be less likely to close his mouth to swallow if he can't breathe through his nose, suggests AboutKidsHealth, a website developed by the SickKids Learning Institute. Help your child practice good posture so it's easier to swallow.