Babies commonly begin teething when they are 4 to 7 months old. By the time they are 3 years old, they most likely will have a full set of 20 baby teeth.

Teething can cause an excessive amount of drool to drip down the back of your baby’s throat. This can sometimes cause your baby to cough. If there’s no sign of nasal congestion that could be the result of a cold or an allergy, this could be the case.

Typical symptoms of teething include:

  • drooling
  • fussiness
  • chewing or biting things
  • rubbing gums
  • turning down nursing or food
  • swollen, red, sore gums

However, your baby’s cough is usually caused by something other than teething, such as allergies, sinusitis, asthma, or in some cases a bacterial infection.

The distinctive sound of your baby’s cough — barking, whooping, or wheezing — may help you determine its cause.

Croup cough

Croup cough is a barking cough that often occurs when your baby is trying to sleep. Croup is usually caused by a viral infection and often clears up in a few days. If it doesn’t, call your pediatrician.

You should also see your pediatrician if the cough seems to affect your baby’s breathing or if your baby seems very sick or irritable.

Whooping cough

Pertussis (whooping cough) is a severe cough marked by a “whoop” sound that occurs between coughing fits. It’s often accompanied by difficulty breathing. It may be preceded by fever or cold symptoms, but these are often resolving or gone by the time the cough starts.

Whooping cough can be very serious and in some cases deadly for infants and young children. If you think your baby might have whooping cough, seek immediate emergency medical care.

Often a baby with whooping cough is hospitalized so oxygen can be supplied during coughing fits. Sometimes an antibiotic such as erythromycin is prescribed.

When it comes to whooping cough, prevention is the best course of action. The childhood vaccine for this cough is the DTaP. Older children and adults get the Tdap booster vaccine.

Wheezing cough

A wheezing cough could indicate bronchiolitis or asthma.

Bronchiolitis sometimes starts with what appears to be a basic cold, such as a runny nose and cough. It’s usually accompanied by a loss of appetite and a slight fever. It’s most often encountered in the fall and winter.

Asthma is not common in children younger than 2 years old. A baby is at a higher risk of asthma if there is a family history or asthma and allergies and if the baby has eczema.

If your baby is younger than 4 months, any cough should be checked out by a doctor.

Although not every cough for a baby older than 4 months is a reason for a doctor’s visit, call your baby’s doctor if the cough is accompanied by symptoms such as:

  • any fever (if baby is 2 months or younger)
  • fever for more than 3 days in any age child
  • labored breathing (fast breathing, wheezing, shortness of breath)
  • blue lips
  • not drinking or eating (dehydration)
  • excessive sleepiness or crankiness

If you think your baby might have whooping cough, seek emergency medical care right away.

Although the drool from teething can sometimes lead to occasional coughing, it’s more likely that your baby’s cough is caused by something else.

If the cough has a very distinctive sound — such as whooping, wheezing, or barking — it might give you a clue as to its cause. And it might be an indication that immediate medical attention is called for.

If your baby is under 4 months old and has any type of cough, have them examined by their pediatrician.