Teething and ear infections can cause babies to experience similar symptoms. The problem is the treatment is different. Understanding the difference between the two will save parents endless worry, time, money and sleep deprivation. Every baby will go through teething and most will experience ear infections; both situations can be nerve-racking for parents.
Birth to 6 Months
A baby is born with 20 primary teeth that are hidden within the gums. Normal teething starts around 6 months but it can begin earlier or later. Girls usually start teething before boys. The teeth will appear in groups of four approximately every four months. Babies should be done teething by the time they are 2 1/2 years old.
Signs of Teething
There are several signs that alert the parent to the teething process as the baby’s tooth twists and grows within the gum tissue. The signs include excessive drooling, a rash around the mouth, loose stools, diaper rash, fever less than 101 degrees Fahrenheit, irritability, biting on everything, abnormal sleep patterns, clear mucus from the nose, ear pulling and refusing to eat.
Ear Infection Cause
A baby’s ear infection is caused by the fluid building up within the Eustachian tube. The Eustachian tube is a small tube that goes from the ear to the pharynx. It provides air to equalize pressure within the ear and provides the channel for mucus to drain out of the ear. Bacteria collects in the mucus. If it cannot drain from the inner ear, it begins to grow and cause an ear infection. The buildup of fluid pressure causes the baby’s eardrum to hurt.
A fever over 101 degrees Farenheit will appear with most ear infections. The fever will go down after a fever reducer is given. The fever will rise as the medication is wearing off. The fever associated with teething will normally go away and not return after a fever reducer is given.
A yellow or green mucus from the nose will be seen if the baby has ear infection. The mucus will be clear if the baby is just teething.
The baby will cry when laid down because the pressure behind the ear drum is uncomfortable with an ear infection. Loss of sleep will occur because they are unable to sleep comfortably. Their appetite will decrease if not completely disappear. Tugging at the ears may occur. Fluid may be seen draining from the baby’s ear.
The baby will prefer to lay against a shoulder to sleep or be propped up in a baby seat for both ear infection and teething. Tugging at the ears may occur with both teething and ear infections.
It is always important to take a baby to a doctor if it is unclear whether they are suffering from teething or an ear infection. Ear infections left untreated can lead to serious ear problems. Antibiotics will need to be administered. Teething pain and fever can be handled by giving the baby a fever reducer along with a topical numbing solution placed on the gums.