A baby teethes the four days before a tooth erupts through the gum and the three days after, according to the WebMD article “Teething vs. Illness: How to Tell the Difference.” While teething is associated with refusing food, drooling and crankiness, there is no medical evidence that suggests that teething causes diarrhea. The most likely explanation for diarrhea when your baby is teething, is that her increased chewing, sucking and drooling has caused her to ingest something that has upset her stomach. If your little one develops a temperature of 102 degrees Fahrenheit or is younger than 6 months old and has diarrhea, call her pediatrician immediately.
Preventing Diarrhea and Safe Food Handling
Parasites, bacteria and viruses can cause an intestinal infection in a baby, which may lead to diarrhea. A baby can develop an intestinal infection after ingesting contaminated food or water. Safe food handling practices such as thoroughly heating food, storing food at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below and cleaning surfaces that you used to prepare food can help prevent diarrhea in a baby. Food allergies and sensitivities, accidental poisoning and drinking too much fruit juice can also cause diarrhea, according to the WebMD article “Diarrhea in Babies.” If your baby develops diarrhea when you give him antibiotics, talk to his pediatrician before discontinuing their use.
The Importance of Hand Washing and Cleanliness
Since a baby has a weak immune system, it’s harder for the antibodies in her system to fight off bacteria, viruses and parasites. In addition to water and food, viruses, bacteria and parasites may live on the surfaces of objects. When a teething baby touches a contaminated object and puts his hand or the item in his mouth, he may develop an infection that some parents may mistakenly attribute to teething. To prevent the spread of harmful organisms, always wash your hands and your baby’s hands after diaper changes, touching food and before and after eating. In addition, always wash your hands after using the restroom. Regularly run a sanitizing wipe over the surfaces in your home, even if they look clean. Since your baby will want to put things in her mouth as she teethes, Fisher Price recommends cleaning your baby’s toys with soap and water, sanitizing them with a solution made with 1 tablespoon of bleach and 1 quart of water, and then air-drying them.
Signs of Diarrhea in a Baby
If your baby has a dirty diaper with stool that’s looser than normal when he teethes, this is not a cause for concern, according to BabyCenter. A baby with diarrhea will have a stomachache and more than a couple loose stools. Her stools may also be runny. However, when diarrhea persists for more than a day, your baby is at risk for becoming dehydrated, according to WebMD. Signs of dehydration include a lack of tears when crying, a loss of skin elasticity, dry mouth and fewer wet diapers because he’s urinating less. If your baby develops diarrhea and doesn’t want to eat because of the pain in his mouth caused by teething, ensure he drinks plenty of fluids.
Treating Diarrhea in a Teething Baby
If your little one is less than 6 months old and has diarrhea, call her pediatrician. WebMD recommends that you also call the pediatrician if your baby is dehydrated, has a fever of 102 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer, is lethargic, vomiting, has pus or blood in her stool or her stool is black, red or white. Depending on the cause of your baby’s diarrhea, the pediatrician may prescribe medication to treat a bacterial or parasitic infection. The doctor may also recommend that you give your baby an oral rehydration solution to replenish her electrolytes and treat or prevent dehydration. Always consult with the pediatrician before giving your baby an over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medication, pain reliever or a pain relief gel to ease the discomfort in her stomach and mouth.