New parents are always anxious about their baby’s health. Your baby will face many different problems during their initial years, and you may have difficulty figuring it out.
Teething and ear infections are common problems that babies face in their first year. Both share many of the symptoms, which is why you may be uncertain of what your infant is suffering.
Trying to decipher your baby’s symptoms can be hard for you, especially when your child can’t express what they are going through.
In this article, we will attempt to separate teething from ear infections, to help you better identify your child’s condition.
What does teething feel like?
Teething is the process by which a baby’s teeth erupt, or break through the gums. It generally occurs between 6 to 24 months of age.
Teething may cause the following symptoms –
- Increased drooling
- Restless or decreased sleeping due to gum discomfort
- Refusal of food due to the soreness of the gum region
- Fussiness that comes and goes (1)
- Bringing hands to the mouth
- Mild rash around the mouth due to skin irritation secondary to excessive drooling
- Rubbing the cheek or ear region as a consequence of referred pain during the eruption of molars.
How does ear infection sound like?
Ear infections are prevalent in young children, and they often get better on their own within three days. The symptoms of an ear infection usually start quickly and include:
- Pain inside the ear
- A high temperature of 38oC or above
- A lack of energy
- Difficulty in hearing (2)
- Discharge running out of the ear
- A feeling of pressure or fullness inside the ear
- Itching and irritation in and around the ear
- Scaly skin in and around the ear
Are teething and ear infections related?
The chief culprit for the common symptoms of teething and ear infection is referred pain. As a tooth erupts, the perforations can cause inflammation in the gum and subsequent pain that radiates to the adjacent ear.
There is no proven association between an ear infection and teething, but there could very possibly be a link.
Ear infections and teething share the same symptoms such as fussiness, night waking, tugging at the ears, and low-grade fever.
Teething pain generally kicks in around four months old and return at intervals.
If your baby has not had a cold or upper respiratory infection in the last couple of weeks, or if there is drool but no runny nose, it is more likely to be teething and not an ear infection.
How to provide relief from teething or ear infection
Since teething and ear infections share many symptoms, you will have to decide on your own whether your infant has an infection or is only starting to teethe. (3)
In the case of teething, you can try some home remedies to help provide comfort to your baby.
Teething infants often feel better when gentle pressure is placed on their gums. You can gently massage your baby’s gums with a clean finger.
Cold objects may help reduce inflammation, as well. You can create a soothing teething ring by freezing a washcloth for the child to gnaw on. Be careful to avoid having prolonged contact of icy objects on the gums.
You can also ask your pediatric dentist about giving your child a mild pain reliever.
In case you suspect that your baby has an ear infection, you can contact your pediatrician, as your baby may need antibiotics to help get rid of the infection.
Although most ear infections clear up on their own, or with antibiotics, after a few days, in some cases long-lasting or frequently reoccurring ear infections can lead to complications.
You can do the following to help relieve pain and discomfort for your baby:
- Use painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.
- Place a warm or cold flannel on the ear.
- Remove any discharge by wiping the ear with cotton wool.
When should you visit a doctor?
You can visit your doctor if you are concerned, especially if you see a bloody discharge. Although ear infections are rarely an emergency, they make your child pretty uncomfortable.
You should visit your doctor if your child has:
- A very high temperature or feel hot and shivery.
- Earache that doesn’t start to get better after three days.
- Swelling around the ear.
- Fluid coming from the ear.
- Hearing loss or a change in hearing.
- Other symptoms, like being sick, a severe sore throat or dizziness.
- Regular ear infections.
It is ubiquitous for new parents to associate teething with ear infections because the symptoms are so similar.
You will need to observe and gauge your baby’s behavior and symptoms to decide whether your baby has an ear infection or has an oral issue.
After you have chosen, you can provide relief and comfort to your child by some simple home remedies.