Child Health

The Teething Myth

A lady rushed into the children emergency room with her child who was weak, crying and severely dehydrated. The doctor made a quick assessment and began to resuscitate the child.  When she was asked about the child’s symptoms, she told the doctor that the child had diarrhoea for four days while fever started the previous day. She thought the diarrhoea was because the child was teething.                                         

This case is one of many similar cases seen in different children emergency rooms.

The myth that teething causes diarrhoea is quite prevalent.  When parents/caregivers believe their child’s diarrhoea is caused by teething, they may be less concerned and seek medical care quite late. The implication may include missing a diagnosis of a gastrointestinal problem or failing to treat the dehydration that accompanies diarrhoea in children.  A study was done by Sodemann M. et al on maternal perception of cause, signs and severity of diarrhoea in a suburban West African community. Their findings showed an 80% reduction in the likelihood of seeking consultation when the mother perceived the diarrhoea as caused by teeth eruption. Medical research has NOT shown that teething causes diarrhoea.

A baby’s teeth typically start to come through the gum line between 6 and 12 months. Children usually have their full set of baby teeth by age 3.

Symptoms of teething include:

  • Swollen, tender gums
  • Drooling more than usual
  • Fussiness and crying
  • Changes in eating or sleeping pattern
  • irritability

Infants put their hands in their mouth and chew on objects to ease the discomfort on their gums during teething. Many of those things are not very clean. If their hands and the objects they put in their mouth are not clean, germs are introduced into their body. These germs may cause infection resulting in diarrhoea and high-grade fever. Teething usually happens in children when they are between 6 and 24 months old, a time during which a large percentage of children will experience any number of different, completely unrelated, symptoms or ailments.

 Babies who are teething love to chew. Ensure you know what your baby is putting into her mouth and that it’s safe and clean.  Giving your baby a clean teether made of solid rubber to chew can help make her feel better.  Also, rubbing the gums with a clean small cool spoon or a moist washcloth can be soothing.

Always clean teething toys, washcloths and other items after your baby use them. Also, ensure your baby’s hands are always clean to avoid introducing germs into her body. Seek medical consultation if your child has diarrhoea simultaneously while teething.   Children who have diarrhoea simultaneously while teething are just as likely to develop dehydration as other children with diarrhoea who are not teething.

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Dr. Chisom Okoye
Dr Chisom Okoye is a medical doctor with over four years’ experience in Child health. She believes that health education is vital in promoting positive health attitude among parents or care givers because children are affected greatly by their decisions, activities and inactivity. She is also very passionate about making the dreams of children from less privileged homes becoming future professionals a reality through promoting access to quality health care and education; thereby creating equal opportunities for every child.

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