Is Your Toddler Drooling? What’s Normal vs. When to Seek Medical Attention

Many toddlers experience drooling, and in many cases, the baby is perfectly healthy. Drooling can also be a sign of an underlying condition that should be assessed by a pediatrician. How do you know when to seek medical care? Read on to learn!

Key takeaways:
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    Drooling is a common phenomenon in young children in the first 2 years of life.
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    In many cases, it is mild and is due to teething, certain foods, emotions, or hunger.
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    However, drooling may also be due to underlying medical conditions. In this case, parents need to seek treatment.

The role of saliva

Drooling, or sialorrhea is the unintentional loss of saliva and other fluids from the mouth. It has essential functions for the baby’s health. It softens solid foods that are introduced into the baby’s diet. It also keeps the mouth moist, facilitating the swallowing process. Saliva also helps wash away food residue, aids digestion, and helps maintain healthy teeth and gums.

Some drooling is normal in young children

Mild drooling during infancy is considered normal, according to medical experts. The child may drool during the day, leaving the clothes wet, and have crusts on the face, neck, and chest. Some drool when sleeping, leaving the bed and pillows wet. Some normal causes of drooling are:

Teething – Drooling is considered a normal sign that the teeth are ready to push through the gums. Teeth start to grow around 6 to 8 months of age; in some children, teething occurs around 34 months of age.

Normal physical development – Saliva bubbles tend to be more noticeable when children are about 3 months old when the digestive system is developing. This is considered normal. Toddlers do not have full control of swallowing or control of the muscles of the mouth until they are about 18 to 24 months of age.

Hunger – If the baby is getting into a routine and is used to being fed at a certain time, he may drool more if the feeding is delayed. Simply smelling breast milk can make a toddler drool.

Certain foods (particularly acidic foods, like lemon, vinegar, and fizzy drinks) and emotional stimuli.

In all these cases, the parents have nothing to worry about. Healthy children usually stop drooling by the age of 2 years, and no treatment is necessary if the drooling is mild. Parents should offer the baby a pacifier or a teething ring to chew on and use an absorbable wristband. It is also important to maintain good oral hygiene.

Red flag symptoms

Drooling may also be caused by an underlying medical condition. In this case, parents should watch for other symptoms that may come along and seek medical advice, as needed.

If drooling is associated with the following symptoms, parents should seek medical advice to evaluate possible underlying conditions:

Symptoms
Potential causesWhat to do?
High-pitched wheezing sound
Loss of voice
Agitation
Difficulty breathing

Epiglottitis - a potentially life-threatening condition in which the small cartilage that covers your windpipe swells and blocks the airways.Call 911 or take the child to the nearest emergency department.
Fever with chills
Sore throat
Headache
Swelling of the face and neck
Muffled voice or hoarseness
Difficulty swallowing

Peritonsillar abscess, also known as Quinsy – is a pus-filled pocket that forms near one of the tonsils.Call the doctor right away because a peritonsillar abscess needs prompt treatment to avoid complications.
Choking
Gagging
Coughing
Vomiting
Shortness of breath

The child may have swallowed a foreign object.Call 911 or take the child to the nearest emergency department, while starting the Heimlich maneuver or chest compressions on the child.
Shedding more tears than usual
Sweating
Dizziness
Cramps

Organophosphate intoxication. Organophosphate insecticides are widely used in rural areas, and young children may accidentally ingest these substances.Call 911 or take the child to the nearest emergency department.
Passes out and experiences shock-like jerks of the muscles that cannot be controlledSeizureKeep the child safe, away from any object that could injure him, and call the pediatrician to ask for instructions.
RegurgitationAcid refluxCall the pediatrician to book an appointment.
Ulcerations and painful spots inside the mouthHand, foot, and mouth disease or herpes.Call the pediatrician.
Slow development
Loss of social interaction and communication
Abnormal hand movements
Does not sleep or breath normally
Weight loss
Insensitivity to pain

A genetic condition called Rett syndrome.Book an appointment with the pediatrician.

Drooling in toddlers can have many causes. It may be uncomfortable or even embarrassing at times, but parents should not worry if the baby is healthy and does not have other symptoms. Drooling may be caused by teething, hunger, certain foods, or normal physical development.

If the baby experiences other symptoms along with drooling, parents need to seek medical treatment. Some conditions such as acid reflux do not require urgent treatment, while others like intoxications and swallowed objects require treatment right away.