Teething is a common occurrence during childhood. The signs of teething can mimic the symptoms of an illness, making it difficult for you to differentiate between teething and a cold. An infant or child cutting a tooth often experiences a slight increase in temperature, a runny nose, and a headache. Those symptoms can also appear during a cold, so you need to look for other clues that indicate the child is teething, such as drooling or a visible tooth right below the surface of the gum. The child might also engage in excessive gnawing or biting, since the additional pressure on the gums can help relieve the pain of cutting a tooth.
Parents often report increased temperature when a child is both teething and having a cold. Although many physicians and medical professionals disagree that teething causes a rise in temperature, a number of parents report that a low grade fever is typical when their children are cutting teeth. A high fever, or one that persists for several days, is not normally due to teething. If your child is experiencing a sudden or drastic change in temperature, it is best to contact a health care provider for advice.
You can often differentiate between teething and a cold by observing the child's respiratory symptoms. Although teething can cause a slight runny nose, a child with thick, green, or yellow discharge is likely suffering from a viral illness or bacterial infection. Teething can also result in a slight cough, but frequent, severe, or persistent coughing indicates that the child is sick. When your child displays symptoms that are common during both teething and a cold, you can evaluate the severity of the symptoms to determine the best course of action.
Many parents observe that their children suffer from diarrhea when they are cutting teeth. It is possible that swallowing excess saliva might cause loose stools in some children. However, severe diarrhea should be evaluated by a doctor. Vomiting and diarrhea are more likely to be signs of an illness or infection than symptoms of teething.
Treatment plans are usually different for teething and a cold. If your child is teething, he or she might benefit from a pain reliever or topical numbing gel. You can also briefly place teething toys or a washcloth in the freezer before giving them to the baby. The cool temperature can be soothing to painful or inflamed gums. If symptoms indicate your child actually has a cold, treatments like rest, fluids, a humidifier, and prescription cold medicines will be more effective in making him or her comfortable.