Many medical professionals have come up with various ways to describe the symptoms of teething and how to treat the pain. In my experience the best thing you can do for your child is to distract them. Now the success rate of this will obviously depend on the individual child and how they react to different scenarios - no two children are the same!!!
If your child is cutting their first tooth they may be more distressed than when they cut their 4th, 5th etc and so on. The first teeth to usually come through are the front 4. These are the cute ones!!!!!! My son's teeth came through in pairs so be prepared that once your child has one tooth, there may be another couple on their way!!!
The best way I can tell with my son if he has teeth on their way is his cheeks. They are bright red and quite warm to the touch up to 4 days before a tooth pops through. When his first teeth came through he developed a touch of nappy rash and had a very red and sore botty. Whether or not this was directly related to his teething I cannot be 100% sure but it's something to look out for. His gums usually feel quite warm to the touch and if you put a clean finger in baby's mouth you can usually feel the tooth right under the gum. Teething shouldn't really prevent a child from playing are normal. If there are any other symptoms that you're not entirely sure about, best thing to do is play it safe and contact your health visitor.
Having tried various teething gels bought in chemists (Calgel, Bonjela etc) I found that the best way to help my son was a dose of Calpol and a cool drink. Calpol is an infant paracetamol that is suitable for children as young as 2 months. It eases any pain and helps to bring any high temperature down.
Other alternatives are teething rings. The aim of these is to help cool the gums whilesatisfying the urge to gnaw on something. If there is a tooth just under the gum this could cause more pain than needed. I found that a cold drink of water or milk helped cool my son's gums enough to ease his discomfort. Remember the drink shouldn't be too cold as it could chill the little one's tummy.
Another thing to try is a rusk. Farley's mini rusks are suitable from 4-6 months of age and crumble and become soggy with a bit of drool (which a teething baby has a plentiful supply of!!!). Children should not be left unattended when eating.
In summary the best things you can do for an upset teething child:
Dose of Calpol (depending on age of child - check back of packet for correct dose)
Lots of cuddles
Mini rusks to munch on. (99p for a multipack in Boots)
Obviously what you do with your own child is up to you - no-one can tell you how to raise your child. Hopefully, by giving you an insight in to what I tried with my son and how well it worked will give you the confidence to consider some of these things with your own. Just remember that when the teeth come through they are sharp!!!!!!!!!!!!