As the parent of a newborn, it’s normal to feel concerned if your child shows signs of abnormal behavior. Many parents express concern when their child experiences excessive drooling, even when their child enters the toddler phase. But is excessive drooling always a symptom of autism?
While it can signify a neurological disorder, excessive drooling can also be a sign of other birth injuries. Our guide explains the common causes of extreme drooling in children and what to do if your child exhibits excessive saliva production.
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What Causes Excessive Drooling in Children?
Parents should keep in mind that drooling is normal for the first two years of a child’s life. Research from Healthline reports many causes of drooling, and infants do not develop control of swallowing and mouth muscles until they are 18 to 24 months old. It’s also common for infants to drool while they are going through the teething process.
While excessive drooling can be a sign of autism, it is much more recognizable in older children. Excessive drooling in infants and toddlers can stem from a variety of causes, including:
- Eating a diet high in acidic content, causing excessive saliva production
- Low muscle tone or structural issues
- Difficulty or unwillingness to swallow saliva
- Neurological disorders or birth injuries that produce excess saliva
- Allergies and above-the-neck infections (such as strep throat or tonsil infections)
Excessive Drooling and Autism
For children with autism, sensory input, neurological concerns, and attention deficits lead to excessive drooling. Neurotypical children learn to seal their mouth and swallow between one and a half and two years old, but developmentally delayed children do not.
Children with autism may drool because they lack sensory nerves around the mouth and lips. In other cases, poor muscle control around the neck causes the child to tilt downward, creating a pool of saliva.
Not only is excessive drooling unsightly, but it is also unhygienic. The good news is that with the right autism therapy, you can reduce drooling in your child. Developmental therapists help children with autism strengthen their oral muscles and adapt better posture to prevent excessive drooling.
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Signs of Autism in Older Babies and Toddlers
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is one of the most common developmental diagnoses in America. Statistics on autism spectrum disorder from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that one in 54 children receive an ASD diagnosis.
While excessive drooling can be a symptom of ASD, there are usually other indications a child has a developmental disorder. In older babies and toddlers, this may include:
- Avoiding eye contact
- Seeming not to care about watching people
- Failing to respond to their name
- Repetitive motions (such as arm flapping)
- Unusual play habits (like sorting and lining up their toys)
- Missing developmental milestones
If you have concerns about your child’s development and wonder if it could be due to ASD, speak to a trusted pediatrician. You can request a screening to determine if your child is behind in meeting developmental milestones.
Excessive Drooling Is a Sign of Other Birth Injuries
While excessive drooling is a sign of autism, drooling in young babies can signify another cause. Generally, autism symptoms do not begin until a baby is at least one year old.
In most cases, excessive drooling is the result of teething. However, brain damage due to birth injuries can increase saliva production and cause abnormal drooling in young children.
Brain damage during pregnancy, delivery, or shortly after birth can lead to cerebral palsy symptoms in your child. Due to the area of the brain involved, cerebral palsy often affects muscle control and coordination. This includes oral and throat muscles, making it difficult to close the mouth and swallow excess saliva.
Facial palsies, such as Bell’s palsy, occur because of nerve damage on one side of the face. Babies with this condition will likely have one side of the face that droops. As a result, they might not have the ability to move the affected side of the face, leading to excessive drooling.
A stroke or hemorrhage shortly before or after birth can lead to paralyzed muscles, impaired muscle control, or a lack of muscle coordination. If the child suffered injuries in areas of the brain that control the mouth and throat muscles, it may make it difficult to swallow saliva.
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What to Do if Your Child Is Drooling Excessively
If your child excessively drools, discuss your concerns with your primary care doctor or a pediatric ear-nose-throat specialist. The medical professional can examine your child’s tonsils and salivary glands to determine they are playing a role in saliva production. They will also review your child’s medications, as some prescription drugs can cause excessive drooling.
If everything looks normal, your doctor may administer neurological tests to detect if a birth injury is causing the excessive drooling. The tests will look for brain trauma and cognitive impairments that may be contributing to developmental delays.
If the tests reveal your child has autism, you can work with medical professionals and therapists to teach your child how to stop drooling and enforce proper chewing and swallowing techniques. If your child is drooling due to a birth injury, you can seek the assistance of a qualified birth injury lawyer and file a claim against the at-fault party.
Excessive Drooling and Preventable Birth Injuries
In some cases, your child’s condition may stem from a birth injury. For example, your doctor may have committed an act of medical negligence during the pregnancy or delivery that caused this condition.
If you or your birth injury attorney can prove that your child’s condition occurred because of medical malpractice, you may be able to hold the doctor or medical facility responsible. You could recover compensation to help pay for your child’s care, treatment, and pain and suffering.
Discuss Your Concerns With a Birth Injury Lawyer
If your child sustained traumatic injuries during pregnancy or delivery, your family deserves justice. When you call skilled attorneys at the Birth Injury Lawyers Group, you can receive a free case review and consultation. We will discuss your child’s diagnosis and determine if the birth injury resulted from medical malpractice. Contact us now to get started.