Can Teething Cause Diarrhea In Babies?


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Teething usually marks the beginning of the transition from breast milk or formula to solids. However, the teething period can be uncomfortable and bothersome for the young one. Along with several issues, such as gum pain, drooling rash, and disturbed sleep, your baby may also experience diarrhea. As a first-time parent, you may associate diarrhea with teething but does teething cause diarrhea in babies?

Read on to know about diarrhea during teething, its possible causes, the treatment options, and when to see a doctor.

Is There A Correlation Between Teething And Diarrhea?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), teething does not cause diarrhea (1). Teething and diarrhea are often coincidental since teething usually begins around the same time when babies start consuming solids. The transition from breast milk or formula to solids may lead to diarrhea as the baby’s sensitive digestive system adjusts to the dietary changes.

Also, around the age of six months, babies lose their maternal antibodies, making them vulnerable to infections, which may cause diarrhea. The watery stools or diarrhea in such cases can be a sign of severe infection (2) (3). All these simultaneous events could make the parents or caregivers assume that teething causes diarrhea.

What Are The Symptoms Of Teething And Diarrhea?

Babies display specific symptoms of teething and diarrhea, as elaborated below (2).

Symptoms of teething

  1. Biting and gnawing: Teething causes tender and sore gums that are often painful. A baby tries to self-soothe by biting and sucking. Parents and caregivers can try alleviating teething discomfort by gently massaging the sore gums with a clean finger or let the baby chew on a teether, pacifier, or a wet washcloth.
  1. Cheek rubbing and ear pulling: Babies rub their cheeks and pull their ears due to the irritated gums. They usually do it when they are getting their molars. If your baby has a fever and they are pulling their ears, it may be a sign of an ear infection.
  1. Drooling: Teething babies drool a little excessively to soothe their tender, inflamed gums. However, excessive drooling and trouble swallowing could indicate an underlying health concern (4). The baby may also develop a drooling rash since their delicate skin around the mouth stays constantly wet.
  1. Mild irritability: Inflammation and tearing of the gums during teething cause pain that can irritate a baby. This irritation could be accompanied by other symptoms, such as fussiness, disturbed sleep, and loss of appetite.
  1. Low-grade fever: Teething may increase the baby’s body temperature slightly. A low-grade fever has a temperature range of 98-100°F. A fever temperature of 100.4°F or higher could indicate an underlying problem.

Many of the teething signs and symptoms could also occur in other serious conditions or diseases. Consult a pediatrician to find out the precise cause.

Symptoms of diarrhea

A breastfed baby usually passes soft, lumpy stools that are light yellow. A formula-fed baby passes yellow to tan-colored stools similar in appearance to peanut butter (5). In healthy, growing babies, a greenish tinge to poop is normal, and the color may further vary if the baby eats solids.

Babies with diarrhea will have loose stools that may cause the diapers to leak. A baby may pass watery stools up to 12 times a day, depending on the underlying cause. Whitish or clay-like, watery stools with mucus or blood could indicate serious problems.

What Are The Possible Causes Of Diarrhea?

Diarrhea during teething may occur due to the following reasons.

  1. Viruses and bacteria: Viruses, such as rotavirus, and bacteria, such as salmonella, can cause infections that lead to diarrhea (6). These infections also cause other symptoms, such as fever and vomiting. Babies can get a viral or bacterial infection due to the ingestion of contaminated foods and drinks.
  1. Food intolerance or sensitivity: Changes in the breast milk composition due to maternal diet, change in formula, or the introduction of solids may cause diarrhea (7). Diarrhea may also occur due to food allergies, which can cause other symptoms, such as wheezing, coughing, and hives. Cow milk allergy and lactose intolerance are common causes of recurrent diarrhea in babies and toddlers.
  1. Medications: Some medicines, such as antibiotics, may irritate the gastrointestinal lining and cause loose, watery stools. Diarrhea usually resolves once the medication is stopped.
  1. Others: Several other conditions can also lead to diarrhea in babies. A few notable examples are parasitic infections, such as giardiasis, and gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome.

Some babies may have occasional diarrhea for no apparent reason. If the baby is healthy and eating well, there is nothing to worry about. If the diarrhea is persistent and the baby has other symptoms, such as fever, consult a pediatrician to avoid complications, such as dehydration.

How To Treat Diarrhea And Teething Pain In Infants?

The following are the treatment measures for teething and diarrhea, respectively.

  1. Treat diarrhea: The cure for diarrhea will depend on the treatment of the underlying cause. Consult a doctor once the baby develops diarrhea for early diagnosis and treatment of the problem. Healthcare providers recommend breastfeeding or formula feeding to a baby with diarrhea to prevent dehydration. You may also offer small amounts of water or oral rehydration solution after consulting a doctor.
  1. Relieving teething pain: You can give a clean rubber teether or a chilled fruit nibbler to the baby to soothe their sore and tender gums. You can also gently massage your baby’s gums with a clean finger or a moist gauze pad. Consult a pediatrician if you wish to use over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, essential oil, or other home remedies to alleviate teething pain.

The US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) discourages the use of homeopathic medicines and teething jewelry to relieve teething pain since these products could be harmful (8).

When To Call A Doctor?

Teething and diarrhea often resolve through adequate homecare. However, see a doctor in the following situations (9).

  1. Baby is younger than six months
  2. Diarrhea is present for more than a day
  3. Fever for more than two days
  4. Repeated vomiting and trouble swallowing
  5. Loss of appetite and refusal to eat
  6. Lethargy, sunken soft spot, and fewer wet diapers could indicate severe dehydration
  7. Fever for more than two to three days

The teething period is often accompanied by changes in the baby’s diet and physiology, which may lead to diarrhea. The two conditions are independent of one another and require different treatment modalities. Teething pain can be easily managed at home through gum massages and teethers. Diarrhea often resolves on its own with home care. If any of the conditions persist for a long time, do not hesitate to see a doctor to determine the precise underlying cause.


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