Many parents often wonder why their babies drool or why they drool more than some of others? Is there anything that can be done for these babies? Is excessive drooling harmful or is it just a symptom of other clinical conditions?
Drooling means saliva coming out from mouth. Typically infants do not have the ability to swallow saliva efficiently. Until their muscles in the head, face, mouth, jaw and neck develop, infants tend to drool or salivate.
By the time a baby is between 4 to 6 months old they gain better head and neck control, and they can handle better their secretions. At this time, parents expect their babies’ drooling to diminish, but unfortunately it tends to continue due to teething. Six months is the average age for the first tooth eruption. Care for drooling due to teething includes good oral hygiene. Take care to avoid choking when a child uses any of these objects.
Besides teething, excess salivation or drooling may be due to helminthic infestations. In that case, children have to take anti-helmihthic drugs.
Fungal infection is other major cause of drooling. In such case, nystatin drop or miconazole oral gel is the solution.
Other causes of drooling includes nausea, mouth sores, an abnormality of the airway, protruded tongue, pain in the throat or certain infections. Cerebral palsy or developmental delay is one of the major cause of drooling.
Occasionally, a child does not develop muscle tone and coordination with age as expected. Instead they develop hypotonia or low muscle tone which results in symptoms such as delayed speech development, persistent drooling, problems in feeding, difficulty with the introduction of new foods and difficulty drinking from a cup. Children with these symptoms should be evaluated by their doctors.
Parents can help their baby develop and improve his oral motor skills by allowing him to suck. All babies have a natural need to suck during the first 6 months of life and parents can help satisfy this need through the use of a pacifier. Some parents are cautious about introducing a pacifier because they are afraid that it will become a habit. But it will not become a habit if you discontinue the pacifier at 6 months of age when an infant naturally overcomes the need to suck.
If baby develop a sudden onset of drooling or excess salivation along with difficulty feeding, labored breathing, stridor (a high pitched inspiratory sound), changes in the sound of his cry, a weak cry, insufficient weight gain, irritability, fever, mouth sores or developmental delay, this would call for an evaluation by child specialist as soon as possible, although these occur rarely.
It is normal for newborns to drool. If a baby is seemingly healthy like eating well, gaining weight, free from respiratory symptoms and without fever there is no need to be concerned.
Dr Abu Sayeed Shimul
The writer is a medical officer in Baro Uthan Health Sub Centre, Potiya Upazila Health Complex, Chittagong.
Source: The Daily Star, February 07, 2009