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Ear Infection vs Teething – Differences, Symptoms, and Treatments

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Little ones are more prone to ear infections, but these often share the same symptoms as teething. Both can involve pulling on their ear. Teething and ear infections can both cause fever and fussiness.

There are ways to tell the difference, though! We’ll go through those together so you don’t wind up going to one doctor’s appointment after another when your little one is teething. 

Ear Infection Symptoms And Treatment

Ear infections are common in little ones. They are more common in children that are exposed to smoking or have other risk factors.

Swimmer’s Ear, the name for an ear infection that is caused by water being left in the ear, is one of the most common ear infections in little ones.

It’s important to understand the symptoms and treatments for an ear infection so you can tell whether your baby needs to see a doctor or needs cuddles and teething gel. 

Symptoms

Some of the symptoms of an ear infection are more noticeable than others, especially in babies.

Most common symptoms include: 

  • Pulling at ears
  • Irritability
  • Unable to sleep or suddenly stops sleeping through the night
  • The baby has been sick and congested recently (this can also cause ear infection)
  • Hard time hearing
  • Imbalance or clumsier than usual
  • Fever
  • Doesn’t respond to quiet noises
  • Fluid draining out of the ear
  • Will not lay on one particular side (this is because the pressure on the ear hurts)

Treatment For An Ear Infection In Babies

Treatment for an ear infection often involves medicine to reduce fever and discomfort, such as infant Tylenol or ibuprofen. It can also include antibiotics.

These might be oral antibiotics or in the form of ear drops. However, if the ear infection is caused by a virus, some pediatricians will wait to see if it clears up on its own.

Sometimes, you have to wait for the virus to clear up before the ear infection will. There are also some great home remedies that you can use to treat discomfort. Check out this website for more information on that.

Teething Symptoms And Treatment

Teething can cause some symptoms that will make it look like an ear infection. For example, some babies pull at their ears as a soothing mechanism, so they might pull at their ears when they are in pain.

Teething can even result in a fever. Other symptoms of teething include: 

  • Drooling
  • Fever (typically a low-grade fever under or at 101)
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Rashes
  • Coughing
  • Diarrhea
  • Biting
  • Swollen gums

Some babies have all of these symptoms, and some little ones have none of them. Your baby might have a low-grade fever, cry and pull at their ears, which can insinuate that they have an ear infection. It can make it tricky to tell the difference. 

Treatment

Treatment options for teething often involve soothing the gums because this is the source of discomfort. Other symptoms are treated as necessary.

For example, if your baby has diarrhea you’ll need to make sure that they are getting plenty of fluids so that they do not get dehydrated.

A low-grade fever might call for Tylenol or Ibuprofen, but make sure to discuss this with your doctor first for younger babies. 

To soothe gums, give your baby something cold to chew on. Most teething toys can be put in the freezer to provide almost instant relief. Putting their favorite toy in the freezer or making baby popsicles are also great ideas. 

Baby Orajel is another great option. Keep in mind that there is some controversy surrounding this product, and whether or not you should give it to your little one.

Personally, I gave it to all three and now the grandchild. They are all great. Do your research and decide what’s best for your family, though.

If you decide that you don’t object to it, this provides almost instant relief for fussy babies that are in pain because they are teething. 

How To Tell The Difference In An Ear Infection And Teething

Because some babies don’t exhibit every possible symptom of teething or an ear infection, it can be hard to tell the difference.

However, there are a few key things that you can watch for to help you determine whether your baby has an ear infection or is teething. 

Ear Infections Can Have A Higher Temperature

This one is a bit iffy. Some little ones with an inner ear infection won’t have a fever at all. Others might only have a low-grade fever. However, if their fever spikes above 101, it’s more than likely something other than teething. 

Teething Causes White Or Swollen Gums

When new teeth come in, the gums will be swollen at first. They might also appear red. Then, as new teeth get closer to the surface of the gums, they will appear whitish in color.

This is because those cute, pearly white teeth are starting to cut through the gums. This can be very painful. If you notice white gums, your baby is teething. 

Treatment For Teething Soothes Them

If your baby is teething, chewing on a finger, teething toy, or massaging their gums will soothe them when they are fussy. If your infant has an ear infection, this won’t make a difference. In fact, it might irritate them more. 

Ear Infection Causes Discomfort On One Side

When you notice that your baby is partial to one side, that’s a sure sign that you’re dealing with an ear infection instead of teething. Teething will cause pain, but your little one will not react differently to laying on one side or the other. 

In Conclusion

When determining whether your baby has an ear infection or is teething, it’s important to look at the differences between the two. Check to see whether the pain is coming from their ear or their gums.

Look to see if their gums are white. Then, pay attention to whether there is added discomfort when they lay on one side. If you’re not sure, it’s always a good idea to call your pediatrician to double-check. 

Medical Disclaimer. All content and media on the MomInformed Website is created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice.

My name is Amber Dixon. I am a mother to three wonderful children, and recently welcomed a beautiful grandson into the world as well as into my home. I've learned a great deal about raising children through my own experiences as a mother, but also from several other places. While working at a daycare full time, I learned about childhood development, teaching children, and more. Through earning degrees in Social Work, I was educated about human development, including a great deal about children and childhood development. My education and experience combined have taught me a lot about children of every stage and age, and I hope that I can help you on your journey to becoming the best parent that you can be!