According to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, teething is only responsible for mild symptoms and not fevers. The study followed 47 infants over 15 months and found only minor symptoms on the day a tooth erupted, such as a slight increase in temperature, a day of diarrhea, drooling, irritability, and poor sleep (no kidding on that last one). The study's authors note that fevers and longer periods of diarrhea in infants are cause for concern and should not be passed off as signs of teething.
While teething may not cause symptoms like fevers or congestion, they certainly seem to be linked. Many nurses, caregivers, and parents blame teething even looking back on an event. I, certainly, can think of episodes of diarrhea and fevers that occurred during teething spells. Yet I've always wondered about the true cause of more severe symptoms.
Even according to the Pediatrics study, babies suffer some unpleasant side effects of teething. And, (all you moms out there), what else do babies do when they're teething? They chew on every item within reach. Could it be that teething causes mouthing of items, which leads to the ingestion of disease-causing pathogens? I've always wondered if the association between a fever and more serious symptoms is valid, even if the causal relationship is not. Of course, the difference is that an illness during a time of teething may require separate treatment from the teething. Which goes right back to the conclusion of the most recent study- that doctors and parents should seek treatment for ongoing fevers and diarrhea rather than blaming them on teething (at least, rather than blaming them on teething alone).
Sometimes wisdom written off as an old wives' tale is based on some truth. For example, chicken soup really does help cure colds and the flu. That science has proven teething isn't the cause of severe symptoms doesn't mean the two aren't related. Just ask a mom.