In most cases, babies start teething around the age of six months. Some start earlier, around three months, and some wait until around 12 months. Teething symptoms include irritability, drooling, and the desire to chew on objects. Other teething symptoms include sleep disruption and refusing to eat.
Often a tell-tale symptom of teething is a fussy baby. If a baby is very irritable or won't sleep due to teething, a pain reliever designed for babies may help soothe him, as it helps calm his sore gums. A parent should only give a baby acetaminophen or ibuprofen after checking with the child's doctor and should give the baby only the dose listed on the package. Aspirin is not suitable for infants, as it can cause a serious disease known as Reye syndrome.
Other teething symptoms include drooling. The drool can cause a rash to develop on a baby's face if it is not cleaned up. The parent should wipe up the drool with a washcloth often to prevent it from irritating the baby's skin. Applying petroleum jelly can help protect the skin from the drool.
When teething, a baby's gums will appear swollen, which leads to other teething symptoms, including refusing to eat or chewing on objects. A baby may place his fingers or his toys in his mouth to deal with the pain. Since a baby's fingers or toys may be have bacteria on them, a parent should give her baby something such as a clean washcloth or rubber teething ring to chew on. Teething toys filled with liquid should be avoided because they could pop if the baby chews on them too hard.
Chilling the teething ring or washcloth first may further help relieve the pain. A cold, hard piece of fruit, such as an apple, may also help relieve the baby's pain. The teething ring or cloth should always be washed after use and before it is given to the infant again.
A parent can also try to wipe a baby's gums with her finger or, after teeth have started to appear, using a wet cold washcloth to soothe the pain and reduce the swelling. Topical pain relievers designed for teething may also help reduce teething symptoms, but a parent needs to take care not to use them too often or in too high a dose. Overuse of a topical pain reliever can numb the baby's throat. Before using a topical gel on a baby's gums, a parent should talk to her doctor to make sure it is safe to do so.