Baby Ear Infection vs Teething: How to Tell the Differences

By Last Updated: April 26th, 2023Categories: Raising

Many parents around the world have been unable to find the difference between a baby ear infection and teething. Well, this is because both have symptoms that are quite similar. Sometimes, they even overlap, and that renders any parent confused about which one is causing discomfort to their baby.

It’s important that parents know the difference so they’d know how to comfort their babies. If you’re also a parent who’s confused about baby ear infection vs teething, we have you covered. On this page, we will tell you everything you need to know to help you identify and differentiate baby ear infection from teething or vice versa. Read on for more details.

Part 1: Baby Ear Infection vs Teething – Similarities and Differences

As mentioned, ear infection and teething have similar symptoms that you may observe with your baby. One of them that makes many parents confused is when the baby tugs or pulls either of their ears. Well, isn’t that a sign of ear infection?

Yes and no, because it’s really hard to tell at first glance. When teeth or a tooth starts to erupt on your baby’s gums, it can cause discomfort or pain. It can radiate toward the ears, which triggers the baby to pull either one of them.

Teething Baby

That’s why you can’t conclude that it’s an ear infection or teething. But despite such confusing similarities, there are other symptoms that can help you distinguish which one is it.

Unique Symptoms of Baby Ear Infection

The culprit is baby ear infection if you see these signs and symptoms:

  • There’s an unexpected discharge from your baby’s ears. It may happen from time to time.

  • A fever of 104°F and above may be experienced. Use a thermometer to measure your child’s temperature accurately.

  • Besides fever, your baby may also experience colds.

  • If your baby can walk, he/she will have difficulty balancing. The ears are important to finding balance on your feet.

  • Rarely, your baby may not be able to respond to sounds and things you say because of slight hearing loss.

  • The previous signs and symptoms get worse whenever your baby is lying down flat.

Unique Symptoms of Teething

When it’s not an an ear infection, you may notice the following signs:

  • Your baby may experience a fever but not more than 100.4°F.
  • Teeth grinding or jaw clenching may happen. This is pretty normal especially when the teeth just erupted. It’s your baby’s way of easing the discomfort. In some cases, the sound of grinding and cleaning may be heard.

  • The discomfort caused by teething is likely followed by red and swollen gums.

  • Because of new teeth, your baby may drool more often than usual.

Now that you know how to find the differences and identify whether your baby has an ear infection or new teeth erupting, it’s time you know what to do next.

Part 2: What to Do When Baby’s Teething

There are a few things you can do at home to help ease your baby’s teething discomfort. And since teething is normal, all you can do is to reduce the pain until they outgrow it and get used to their new teeth.

Baby Teething

Method 1: Cool Down Your Baby’s Gums

You can do this by providing your baby a teether that can be chilled in your fridge. It could come as a ring or a necklace that your baby can suck on to ease the discomfort. It will help soothe swollen gums.

Method 2: Gently Massage Your Baby’s Gums

With your sterile finger, gently rub your baby’s gums. Just apply a gentle amount of pressure to alleviate the discomfort in the area. Buf if you want to make sure everything is sanitary, you may use wet gauze and rub it against the affected gums.

Method 3: Give Your Baby OTC Pain Medication

If your baby is two months old and above, over-the-counter paracetamol can be given to relieve pain. However, you may need to consult your pharmacist or doctor about the dosage as it will depend on your baby’s weight, too.

Only do this if your baby is showing signs that they’re really uncomfortable like crying and being fussy.

Part 3: What To Do When Your Baby Has an Ear Infection

If you’ve confirmed that your baby is suffering from an ear infection or ruptured eardrum, there’s nothing you can do at home. You need to bring your little one to a pediatrician or physician that specializes in treating the ears. This is especially the case when your baby has a recurring infection in the same ear.

Ear Infection Baby

The doctor may prescribe antibiotics that can help fight the infection and kill the bacteria. Ear drops that help unclog the ears may be given, too. In some instances where the child is experiencing pain, OTC pain relievers may be suggested. Warm compress to the affected ear can be a great way to alleviate the discomfort as well.

It’s important that you bring your baby to the doctor when it comes to infections. Do not medicate your child on your own as that may do more harm than good.


Being a responsible parent doesn’t stop at taking care of your kids on a daily basis. It also entails knowing the different conditions such as ear infections, teething, etc. that your child may encounter. That way, you can distinguish what kind of affliction is bothering your baby and know what to do next.


Most ear infections are caused by bacterial infection, which requires taking antibiotics as the best way to treat them. However, some ear infections are viral in origin.

While teething may cause pain in one’s ears, it won’t cause any infection. There are no medical and scientific data to back such claims.