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April 15, 2014

How to tame teething and calm colic

Baby’s first year of life is full of wonderful milestones, joyful gurgles and happy coos. But on some days, your charming little cherub is fussing, whining and crying, and you just can’t figure out why. Could it be teething pain? A sore tummy? Teething and colic are two common baby woes you definitely should get to know.


Some babies are born with one or more teeth, while others do not get their first tooth until the age of 1. In general, however, primary teeth start coming in between 6 months and 3 years of age, a process that can be with or without pain.

Signs and symptoms

  • Red, swollen gums
  • Excessive drooling
  • Disturbed sleep and loss of appetite
  • Fussiness, crying
  • Biting and gnawing on things
  • Red cheeks
  • Moderate fever

Teething relief for your baby

Unfortunately, there’s no miracle cure for teething. In addition to giving your baby plenty of love, reassurance and hugs, try these tips:

  • Gently rub the painful gum with a cool washcloth, clean finger or baby toothbrush made with extra soft bristles.
  • Give your baby a cold – not a frozen – teething ring. Choose a solid one made of a safe material, such as silicon.

Fever caused by teething does not require any special kind of treatment. If baby’s pain is intense, you can try acetaminophen. Talk to your pharmacist to know the exact dose to administer, based on your baby’s weight. Ibuprofen is not suitable for babies under the age of 6 months and acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin) should never be given to a child under the age of 18.

Important note!
If your baby has a fever of 38°C or more and diarrhea, see your doctor.

What NOT to do

  • Do not try to cut your baby’s gum to help the tooth erupt more quickly. Doing this could cause serious injury or infection.
  • Analgesic gels are also contraindicated. They are associated with the following two problems :
    • When swallowed, these gels can numb the throat and impair your baby’s gag reflex. This represents a choking hazard, especially before a meal.
    • The benzocaine they contain can cause a rare, but potentially fatal disease called methomoglobinemia. Health Canada has actually issued a warning about the risks of using benzocaine-containing products and now requires manufacturers to add a statement to the packaging of their products.
  • Do not make your baby wear a Hazelwood necklace. This is a choking hazard.
  • Avoid teething biscuits. They contain sugar, which can cause tooth decay.


Colic is not a disease, but rather a collection of symptoms with an unknown cause. Babies who display these symptoms are said to be colicky, a term that refers to intestinal pain, even if this may not necessarily be the case.

Signs and symptoms

  •  Intense, prolonged, recurring fits of crying (at least 3 hours per day, several times a week) with no apparent cause.
  • Clenched fists, stiffness, arched back or curled up legs during the crying fit.

Colic can start as early as 3 weeks after birth, but it usually begins at 6 to 8 weeks, and stops around 4 months. Colic is not dangerous and a colicky baby is otherwise healthy and will feed and gain weight normally.

Colic relief for your baby

Since colic is not a disease, but an issue that resolves over time, there is no medical or pharmaceutical treatment for it per se.

Parents will develop their own special way of soothing their colicky babies. Keep in mind that baby’s safety always comes first. Remember too that when it comes to colic, no matter what you try, your baby may still remain inconsolable. The important thing is to stay calm and relaxed. Other than making sure your baby is well fed, well rested and has a new diaper, try these solutions:

  • Movement and cuddling (e.g. hold your baby while walking)
  • Rocking or riding in a car or stroller
  • Swaddling
  • Pacifier
  • Gentle stomach massage
  • Soft singing or music

Caring for a colicky baby can be a trying experience for parents. Do not be afraid to ask for help so you can take a break when you need it. If you are really at the end of your rope, you can always call 911.

Pharmacy services

Still have questions about teething and colic? Speak with your family pharmacist for help and advice!

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