The term teething cough refers to the occasional cough which some babies experience as their teeth are coming in. While this cough can understandably cause anxiety in some parents, it is usually caused by the harmless drainage of excess saliva down the back of the baby’s throat. As some infants are especially prone to viral infections such as colds during the teething process, however, parents should monitor their coughing babies for additional symptoms of illness, and should consult a physician if they are unsure of a cough’s cause.
When the teeth begin to emerge — a process that usually starts around six to seven months — most babies’ mouths produce increased amounts of saliva. While much of this excess saliva escapes as drool, some of it drips down the back of the baby’s throat. As a result of this saliva drip, some babies may develop a teething cough, or an occasional, spontaneous cough which acts to clear the throat.
While it is common for new parents to feel concerned upon hearing their baby cough, in most cases this kind of cough is natural and harmless. It should be noted, however, that a normal teething cough usually only occurs a handful of times each day. In addition, it is usually a somewhat “wet” cough that is free of barking or heaving sounds.
Many babies are especially susceptible to viral illnesses such as colds and respiratory infections during teething, possibly because they tend to chew foreign objects to ease the pain of their teeth’s arrival. Therefore, parents should monitor coughing babies to make sure they are not displaying symptoms of illness. These symptoms can include a runny nose, sneezing, a fever that exceeds 101 degrees Fahrenheit (38.33 degrees Celsius), and excessive irritability. Parents should also listen for a cough that is especially deep or has a barking or wheezing quality to it.
The presence of any of these symptoms may indicate that the baby’s cough is due to illness rather than teething. Viral infections can vary in seriousness, from the common cold to much more dangerous conditions like pneumonia. Those who suspect that an infant’s cough may not be a harmless teething cough should consult a pediatrician immediately, being sure to inform her of all of the baby’s symptoms. While the chances that the infant has developed a serious infection may not be high, it is best to exercise caution by seeking the opinion of a medical professional.