Teething and congestion—neither is likely to make your baby happy. While both these conditions can occur at the same time, one has nothing to do with the other. Congestion, as well as other maladies such as coughing and loose stools, are not related at all to teething, notes the Academy of American Pediatrics. If your baby has a stuffy nose or chest congestion, don't blame teething, but do follow up with the doctor for treatment.
As babies reach the 4 to 7 months of age, teeth begin to emerge. As the tooth erupts through the gum’s surface, it can cause swelling and tenderness. Prior to that, you may notice drooling, a rash on the cheeks, chewing of hands, irritability and a lack of interest in food. This is often accompanied by bouts of tears and wakefulness. Baby may also experience a slight elevation in temperature to no more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Congestion in babies and young children is often caused by colds and flu. If the infection is caused by a virus, antibiotics will not be effective. However, there are a number of supportive measures you can take to help your baby deal with her discomfort, such as offering lots of fluids and keeping her nose clear of mucus with a nasal aspirator. You can also set up a cool-mist humidifier in her room. Other options include running a hot shower and letting her breath in the moist air, or using saline nose drops to keep the inside of her nose moist and relieve mild congestion.
Telling the Difference
If you’re not sure whether your baby is teething or congested, err on the side of caution and let your physician make the decision, suggests the website Ask Dr. Sears. A telltale sign that it may be congestion is mucus running from the nose and, for teething, drooling from the mouth. Mucus from a cold can be thick, yellow or greenish in color and teething drool is clear. If your baby is teething, her temperature won’t be higher than 101 degrees.
Take your little one to see a doctor if his congestion lasts longer than two weeks; teething symptoms subside in about three days as each tooth erupts. If your child is younger than 3 months and is congested, or has severe congestion or teething pain that interferes with sleeping and eating, a doctor should be consulted. If your baby has a barking cough associated with signs of congestion, or there is a high fever and rapid breathing along with the congestion, seek immediate medical attention.