A baby starts teething around 5-6 months old, when the lower middle tooth (also known as incisor) starts coming out. As the tooth keeps pushing against the gums, the baby will feel very irritated, and will soon start waking up in the middle of the night, crying. Other signs of the baby teething are like biting everything within their reach, and drooling a lot. It is due to this excessive drooling, the saliva overflows and accumulates within the baby’s skin folds, soaking the skin. Thus, babies get what is known as teething or drooling rash.
This rash can be usually seen around the lips, on the cheeks, the neck, and even on the chest. When the saliva is wiped, it appears to be dry and red in colour, giving it an angry appearance. Depending on the severity, the skin is sometimes thickened, and the top layer seems to be splitting apart with a bad odour. With the teething process and the rash, it can cause immense pain to the baby.
To soothe this rash, the main thing is to control the drooling. A bib can be placed and changed regularly to keep the skin dry and clean, and during the night, the baby has to be placed sideways to prevent the saliva from gagging the baby. As babies have not yet learn how to swallow properly, accumulation of saliva near the throat throughout the night will be hazardous. Other than changing the bib, to keep the baby’s skin fresh and dry, sometimes parents have to keep an eye on the baby, and gently wipe the saliva away using a soft washcloth when it dribbles out. Clothes also have to be changed whenever they are wet.
To keep the baby’s skin moisturized, soap is always prohibited as it will dry up the skin even more. A better way is to apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly onto the dry skin, which will act as a lubricant, trapping the skin’s moisture within. It can also act as a separating medium between the skin and the outside environment, preventing germs from coming into close contact with the skin. Petroleum jelly is a safe chemical, as many young women with dry, cracked lips often apply it to their lips. So there is no worry even when the baby accidentally licks some of it. Lanolin ointment, with properties almost similar to petroleum jelly, is also good for soothing teething rash.
Aloe vera extract can be mixed into the petroleum jelly to relieve and moisturize the inflamed skin due to the presence of compounds such as polysaccharides, mannans, anthraquinones and lectins. Other than that, this plant actually has a lot of other uses, e.g. cosmetic purposes, cooking purposes, medicinal purposes etc. Therefore, there is no harm in growing a small pot of aloe vera in the house. This plant is actually very easy to be taken care of, as it does not require much water, and does not take up much space. The plant can be planted into a small pot and be left at places with lots of sunlight.
Apart from treating the rash, the parents can relieve teething pain for the baby at the same time. Parents can gently massage the baby’s gums using a clean finger, or give the baby something cold (not frozen) to chew on. The most common things that could be given to a baby are cold teething rings, cold washcloths and cold bananas, as the coolness can numb the pain slightly. However, care must be taken so that the babies do not choke, and the things given to the baby are clean.
There are also various types of teething gels available. Generally, the specified amount of teething gel is applied on a clean finger, and is rubbed on the baby’s gums. However, there were incidences where after rubbing the gel, the baby’s face turned blue and the body went limp. This is due to the local anesthetics (i.e. benzocaine, lidocaine, prilocaine etc) that were part of the ingredients that make up the gel, and the baby has a rare condition known as methemoglobinemia. Methemoglobinemia is a disorder where a person has high levels (more than 1%) of methemoglobin (metHb) in the blood, and there are 2 types of this disorder known. Babies under 6 months of age are particularly susceptible to one of the type, which is also known as acquired methemoglobinemia, in which they are affected by this disease due to exposure to certain things.
No matter what method is used to treat baby teething rash, parents must always monitor the baby closely for signs of abnormalities other than those mentioned above. Babies must be brought to a peadiatrician if the parents feel that there’s something wrong with the baby, as sometimes, an innocent looking rash might indicate that there’s a more severe underlying disease. Do not hesitate or wait for the symptoms to become worse, as babies’ immune system is still very weak. If the parents have used any chemical means to soothe baby teething rash, bring the chemical along with the box and instructions when consulting the doctor.