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My son is six months old and just got his first tooth. He was miserable for about four days until it erupted. Now the second tooth is coming in -- how can I help him feel better? - Veronica in Peoria, IL
The physician answers:
There is nothing that makes us as parents feel more helpless than watching our infants cry out with discomfort from teething pain. Not all children experience teething pain and in those that do the length of time and degree of pain varies greatly. Typically, the first tooth appears during the seventh month -- ranges of "normal" are from three months to one year. The best guess as to when the teeth will appear is based on when his or her parents' teeth erupted. My goal is to prepare the parents for the worst teething pain possible and hope that the least pain occurs.
Signs of teething may include: drooling, biting, a chin rash, irritability, decrease or increase in appetite and pain. There is no evidence that a fever is associated with teething, so consider contacting your doctor if a fever persists.
To prepare for pain associated with teething have a teething paste (gel) available for that middle of the night eruption. Most gels are created equally and when applied according to directions will provide some relief. Flavored gels are better accepted by the infants, and applying gel with a clean finger much more desireable than a cotton swab (as recommended on directions). We keep our teething gels in the refrigerator for the added benefit of the coolness of the gel.
My favorite, albeit impractical for travel, is wetting a washcloth and rolling it tightly and putting it in the freezer. When your infant indicates the need, you can pop the cloths out of the freezer and into their mouths and you and your infant will get immediate relief. I am a fan of certain chewing toys, but do not like the store-bought fluid-filled ones. My concern is the ingestion of the fluid if pierced. There is also a concern of the constant chewing of plastic by our children, as the safety of most plastic chew toys has not been determined.
A natural recipe is to take one teaspoon of clove oil with 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil and after mixing apply directly to infant's gums with your clean finger. This works well for some infants. Additionally, giving your infant teething biscuits is a great option. We found that we needed to try various brands of biscuits before we came upon one that our miniature gourmands would accept.
If none of these remedies are doing the job, acetaminophen drops or ibuprofen infant drops are another option. I recommend saving these for a last resort and only after running it by your baby's doctor.
Lastly, remember that holding and playing with your infant often provides the comfort and distraction that no other remedy can match.
Dr Jane Forester