Is It a Teething Cough or a Cold? Identifying the Source of Your Baby's Cough

Teething Infant Girl and Father Playing

Parents cherish that special moment when their baby's first tooth appears. Yet the tears, crying and sleepless nights that often accompany teething can be distressing for parents and their baby. Many teething symptoms — including a cough — can be confused with symptoms of a cold. So, how can parents know if their child only has a teething cough or if they may be in need of medical care? With these tips on identifying the source of the cough, along with your pediatrician's advice, you can get the care your baby needs.

Why Does Teething Cause a Cough?

Infants begin to teeth between the ages of 4 and 8 months, according to the Children's Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA). The process continues, off and on, until children are about 36 months old. When a new tooth is about to appear, the baby can experience irritability, skin rashes, increased biting, low-grade fever, cheek rubbing, ear pulling and diarrhea.

Another common teething symptom is excessive saliva, which may result in dribbling and sore skin around the mouth. When the saliva goes the other way — down the baby's throat — it can trigger a teething cough.

Differences Between a Teething Cough and a Cold

The CHLA explains that teething begins around the same time that a baby's natural immunity gained from their mother begins to disappear. As a result, they are more vulnerable to minor illnesses, and that's why parents often aren't sure if their baby's cough is due to teething or if their child is sick.

Though a teething cough and a cold can seem similar, there are clear differences you can look for. The Cleveland Clinic states that cold symptoms in infants include:

  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen glands
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fever

Swollen glands, sneezing and a runny nose may indicate your baby has a cold that's also causing a cough. If their sinuses are clear and they're just biting, chewing and drooling, it may mean that your baby is teething.

When to Take Your Baby to a Pediatrician

In most cases, an infant's cold will go away by itself within seven to 10 days, explains the Cleveland Clinic. However, if your baby develops serious symptoms, you should take them to see your pediatrician immediately. These symptoms include:

  • Fever in a baby who is younger than 2 months
  • Blue lips
  • Wheezing
  • Fast breathing or other breathing problems
  • Excessive sleeplessness and irritability
  • Ear pain

Additionally, if your baby's cough lasts longer than three weeks, see your pediatrician.

How to Ease Your Baby's Cough

Moist air can soothe an irritated throat. So whether it's a teething cough or a symptom of a cold, the Cleveland Clinic advises humidifying the air in your baby's room to help ease their cough. You can also try running hot water in your bathroom and sitting in there with your baby, or you can give your baby a warm bath. However, you should never leave a baby alone while in or around water.

Teething is a difficult experience in an infant's life, and it's hard on parents, too. It's also understandable to worry that your baby's teething cough may be a sign of something more serious. If you aren't sure what's causing your baby's symptoms, or if they have other issues that don't seem to be related to teething, take them to your pediatrician for a checkup.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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