Avoid teething necklaces and bracelets, FDA warns parents

So what CAN you use to soothe teething pain for babies? Experts offer safer options

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/ Source: TODAY
By Meghan Holohan

Parents with teething babies will try anything to soothe their infants’s achy gums. But popular teething jewelry is dangerous, the FDA warned Thursday: It can cause strangulation or choking.

“There is no scientific information that teething necklaces are effective and safe. They are really quite dangerous,” said Jennifer Hoekstra, an injury prevention specialist at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She's not with the FDA, but fully supports the warning, she said: “The American Association of Pediatrics does not recommend any teething jewelry.”

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Some fashion-conscious and homeopathic-minded parents dress their children in Baltic amber chokers or bracelets. Fans of these baubles believe that the wearer absorbs succinic acid from Baltic amber, thus easing their pain.

The evidence says: No.

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"They think the necklaces relieve pain by releasing succinic acid and that gets absorbed as the skin and acts as an analgesic," Lara McKenzie, principal investigator in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, told TODAY. "There is really no evidence that when succinic acid is applied to the skin that it can be absorbed by the body. And there is no evidence that it relieves pain."

What's more, succinic acid only seeps from Baltic amber when it's exposed to heat of around 200 degrees Celsius, a temperature a child's skin would never reach.

Other popular teething jewelry include necklaces or bracelets that parents wear, which have silicone or wooden beads for children to chew on.

Parents are supposed to wear these at all times. But Hoekstra believes many hand them to their children, who can become entangled in the string or choke on beads that break off. Even supervision can't prevent accidents. The FDA warning included a story about a 7-month-old baby who choked while using a wooden teething bracelet with parental supervision.

The FDA also received a report of one death after an 18-month old child was strangled by his amber teething necklace during a nap.

The FDA's warning included a reminder to parents not to use over-the-counter numbing gels or creams because they include benzocaine, which can cause methemoglobinemia, which restricts the amount of oxygen carried in the blood.

“The ingredients in there are not appropriate for children,” Hoekstra said.

So what CAN an overwhelmed parent with a teething baby do? The experts recommend four remedies:

  • Frozen items: A frozen or cold washcloth twisted or tied could be given to a child to chew on.
  • Chew toys: These toys are made specifically for teething children and gnawing on them can provide relief.
  • Massage: After washing hands people can rub their finger or knuckle on baby’s gums to provide ease.
  • Acetaminophen: If all else fails, a dose of children's acetaminophen can reduce painful gums.

"You don’t want to do something that is risky," McKenzie said.

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