Teething: The Link With Diarrhoea Especially in the southern part of Nigeria.

It is a popular misconception that diarrhoea is part of the normal process of teething, especially in the southern part of Nigeria, taking imo state, owerri for an example.. And as such, diarrhoea in teething children is often neglected, forgetting that diarrhea, whatever the cause, is one of the major childhood killer diseases in the world.

The question is: does teething even cause diarrhoea? Are there any associations between the two? Or is it just another misconception propagated by the uninformed?


Diarrhoea is defined as frequent passage of loose/watery stool.

So before someone is adjudged to be having diarrhoea, the following criteria must be met:

  1. Increased frequency of stooling and/or increased volume of stool, more than is the norm for the individual.

  2. Change in consistency of the stool from being well informed to being considerably loose or watery.



There are several mechanisms/causes of diarrhoea, but the most notorious among them, accounting for more than 95% of cases [at least in children] is INFECTION.

Most of these infections are transmitted via the feco-oral route: contamination of food, or the mouth, with faecal matter, or simply diarrhoeal causing microorganisms. Feco-oral loosely means “faeces to mouth”. That’s right. Suffice it to say that most times you have diarrhoea the simple fact is that you must have eaten some bit of shit [deal with it!].

Faeco-Oral contamination may be from:

  • unwashed hands of the person preparing the food.

  • contamination of the food or cooking utensils by house fly perching on it.

  • picking up food particles from a non thoroughly cleaned floor which had been contaminated with faeces at some point.

  • drinking contaminated of contaminated,or using the same to prepare food.



It imperative to state that the major problem with diarrheal diseases is not actually the “infection” in itself, but rather the excessive loss of intestinal fluids through faeces which depletes the body of its water stores leading to DEHYDRATION and the sequelae of:

-Hypovolaemic shock.

-Multi organ dysfunction and failure [failure of many organs most notably the kidneys].

  • and ultimately Death.

Hence IRRESPECTIVE of the cause or mechanism, once a child is having diarrhea, it should be tackled head-on with AGGRESSIVE fluid replacement [using oral drip or intravenous infusion, depending on the severity].

This is because children are so sensitive to dehydration as water constitutes an enormous percentage of their body weight.


Does teething itself cause diarrhoea? No. The association between the two can be explained by the following;

  • Children begin teething usually around 6 to 7 months of age

  • Coincidentally, that’s about the same age they start the crawling, explorating the environment, and perhaps contaminating their hands in the process, with all odds and ends.

  • The age of teething also coincides with the “oral phase” of development, which is the phase of development at which they become aware of their mouths as part of their body. Thus everything picked up goes into the mouth.

  • These coupled with the fact that as the teeth tries to break through the gums it causes intense discomfort leading to the irresistible urge for them to scratch their gums with odds and ends, exponentially increases the risk of introducing infections into their mouth.

Hence “Teething” Diarrhea.

OTHER FACTORS that may contribute to Diarrhea at this age includes:

  1. Waning of the immunity acquired from the mother inside the womb and through breast milk.

  2. Most mothers start complimentary feeding at this age. So chances of food contamination is higher, unlike when the baby suckles directly from the breast.

All these can however be prevented by observing FOOD GOOD HYGIENE PRACTICES.

Up till today my Mum still boasts about how NONE of us [we are 4 in number] had “Teething Diarrhoea” because that woman [God bless her] is CURSED with neatness.

My siblings can attest to this.


Diarrhoea in the under-five age group , irrespective of the cause, should be regarded as potentially life-threatening, and as such must be combatted aggressively with Oral Rehydration Therapy [See my article on ORT; will be sharing it on my wall shortly]

That said, let me reiterate :

Teething does not cause diarrhoea; infections rather do.

Keep a clean environment, observe good food hygiene practices in: preparing your child’s meals,feeding him/her, and storing his/her feeding materials– and say goodbye to ” teething diarrhoea!”

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