How can I tell the difference between illness and teething in my baby? Teeth & Tooth Care

iStock.comLinda Kloosterhof

drooling baby
iStock.comLinda Kloosterhof

Baby's cranky, drooling, and maybe a little bit snotty or has a low-grade fever -- is she sick or about to cut a tooth? Here, a pediatrician and moms explain how to clearly tell the difference.

Illness Affects Everything

"There's no formal scientific evidence that teething causes fever, so [I] have to shut that notion down from scientific standpoint. But am I going to refute a parent that says their child has a fever not caused by a virus? I'm not going to do that.

"Oftentimes when babies or toddlers get sick, they have other related symptoms. Some kids who are teething have drool and secretions everywhere, so you can't tell if it's a runny nose or discharge or drool.

"With teething, it tends to be...

"There's no formal scientific evidence that teething causes fever, so [I] have to shut that notion down from scientific standpoint. But am I going to refute a parent that says their child has a fever not caused by a virus? I'm not going to do that.

"Oftentimes when babies or toddlers get sick, they have other related symptoms. Some kids who are teething have drool and secretions everywhere, so you can't tell if it's a runny nose or discharge or drool.

"With teething, it tends to be intermittent symptoms rather than constant. With an upper respiratory infection, there may be drainage with a green or yellow hue to it that's indicative of illness rather than just teething. Many kids who are teething get some pain medication and get more comfortable. You also want to hydrate your child really well. When kids are sick, they're systemically weak or tired, or there are other signs that aren't just regular teething. They may be fussy, more tired than usual, have decreased activity, or are not acting 100 percent. Those are signs of a real illness or infection." -- Christina Johns, MD, MEd, FAAP, senior medical advisor, PM Pediatrics, Lake Success, NY

Know Your Baby

"I think as moms we learn to read our children and their symptoms. All children are different with how they react. My youngest, I never knew he had a new tooth until I saw it. He did not drool, run a fever, or put things in his mouth. My other children would run minor fevers and drool a lot. I could clearly see they were uncomfortable and in pain."

Appetite Could Be a Sign

"When my kids were teething, they would still want to eat. When they were sick, food was the last thing they wanted. With teething, they were actually desperate to stick something in their mouth and chew on it."

It's In the Cry

"I could tell by the way my kids cried and the fact that my children drooled a lot when they were teething. They also didn't want to be held a lot when cutting their first tooth."

Balled Fists

"I'm going through this now! I always know when it's teething because my son cuddles and balls his fists, and when he falls asleep he does duck lips. He gets a fever sometimes but it's nothing worrisome."

Sick Kids Are More Dramatic

"I've always checked my kids' gums, and usually my kids have had low-grade fevers that come and go, snot, drooling, and decreased appetite. When my kids get a cold, they act like they are dying!"

The advice on CafeMom aims to educate, inform, and provide a range of solutions to the issues moms care about. It is not a substitute for consultation with a medical professional or treatment for a specific condition. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without consulting a qualified professional. Please contact your health-care provider with questions and concerns.