The issue of whether babies get a temperature from teething is highly contested, and there is not a complete consensus. Many parents do note a slight increase in a baby’s temperature, especially in the day or two before a tooth breaks through, but some physicians argue that this is coincidental. No matter which side of the fence a person stands, it is abundantly clear that babies should not get a high temperature from teething. Anything above 100 degrees F (37.78), or some doctors say above 101 F (38.33), likely indicates another illness and warrants the attention of a physician.
There is an extensive history of believing that a temperature from teething is normal. It reaches back to Aryuvedic and Ancient Greek medical beliefs, and it pervades medical philosophy well into the late 19th century. Teething was frequently viewed as a process that was not normal development and that could instead cause illness or even death. Rather than understanding that a variety of illnesses and infections were likely responsible for baby deaths, physicians through the 19th century might attribute some infant deaths to teething.
Though less common, this failure in the present day to recognize that children can teethe and be ill concurrently can delay treatment. As long as parents believe that a high temperature from teething is normal and that the two have to be related, they may fail to get care for children who need it. Since infants and toddlers are more vulnerable and have fewer reserves than do older kids and adults, failure to treat is problematic and potentially risky for the child. While a mild fever occurring at the same time teething occurs may be related and is less concerning from a health perspective, parents are cautioned to never make the assumption that a higher fever is necessarily teething-based.
The guidelines on when to call a doctor about fever are more specific and depend on child age, and even if a parent thinks it is temperature from teething, they should try to follow them. An infant up to three months old, who may teeth early, should be seen by a doctor if fever is 100.4 F (38 C) or higher. For three to six month-old babies, parents should call doctors about any fever of 101-102 F (38.33-38.89 C) or above. Parents should call sooner if other symptoms are present like vomiting, strong cough, severe congestion, evidence of ear infection, listlessness, or extreme sleepiness.
Even if a doctor can offer no explanation and ultimately concludes that it is temperature from teething, parents can then be certain they’re providing adequate hydration for kids. They can also remain vigilant and be observant of any change for the worse. Most importantly, consultation or visit with a doctor buys peace of mind. It helps rule out the serious illnesses that can affect infants, whether or not they are teething.