Salivation

Alternative names
Drooling

Definition
Saliva flowing outside the mouth.

Considerations

Drooling is generally caused by excess production of saliva, inability to retain saliva within the mouth, or problems with swallowing.

Some people with drooling problems are at increased risk of inhaling saliva, food, or fluids into the lungs. However, this is unlikely to cause harm, unless the body’s normal reflex mechanisms (such as gagging and coughing) are also impaired.

Common Causes

Isolated drooling in infants and toddlers is normal and is unlikely to be a sign of either disease or complications. It may be associated with teething. Drooling in infants and young children may be exacerbated by upper respiratory infections and nasal allergies.

Drooling associated with fever or trouble swallowing may be a sign of a more serious disease including:

     
  • Retropharyngeal abscess  
  • Peritonsillar abscess  
  • Tonsilitis  
  • Mononucleosis  
  • Strep throat

A sudden onset of drooling may indicate poisoning (especially by pesticides) or reaction to snake or insect venom. Some medications can cause drooling as well. Some neurological problems also cause drooling.

Home Care

Care for drooling due to teething includes good oral hygiene. Popsicles or other cold objects (e.g., frozen bagels) may be helpful. Care must be taken to avoid choking when a child uses any of these objects.

Call your health care provider if

Call your health care provider if:

     
  • Your child has a fever, difficulty breathing, or holds his or her head in a funny position.  
  • There is concern about aspiration.  
  • The cause of the drooling has not been diagnosed.

What to expect at your health care provider’s office

The doctor will perform a physical examination and ask questions about the symptoms, such as:

     
  • Is there a history of any other diseases?  
  • Has the person had a bite or sting?  
  • Has the person had an injury?  
  • What medications are being taken?  
  • What other symptoms are present - fever, sore throat, facial droop, or other symptoms?

Diagnostic tests will be performed as indicated by other symptoms that accompany the drooling.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 4, 2012
by Janet G. Derge, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.