The FDA has issued a warning to parents and caregivers of infants not to use teething necklaces, bracelets, and other jewelry marketed for relieving teething pain.
You may think that amber bracelet or necklace look cute on your little one, but it comes with real danger.
Teething jewelry including necklaces and bracelets have become popular as an aid to relieve teething pain.
The FDA’s warning extends to jewelry marketed to provide sensory stimulation to persons with autism or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
Various materials such as amber, wood, marble, or silicone are used to make the necklace or bracelet beads.
The problem is that the beads can come loose and a child can choke on it. Parents think that they are watching the child and will be on hand if jewelry piece comes undone, but accidents happen fast.
One of the reports the FDA received concerned a 7-month old child who choked on the beads of a wooden teething bracelet while under parental supervision.
Strangulation is also a very real risk.
Strangulation can happen if a necklace is wrapped too tightly around the child’s neck or if it catches onto something.
One of the reports the FDA received was of an 18-month old child who was strangled to death by his amber teething necklace during a nap.
No Proof That Baltic Amber Necklaces Relieve Teething Pain
Baltic amber chokers or bracelets have become very popular with parents who believe that their child will absorb succinic acid present in Baltic amber as they suck on the beads. Succinic acid is believed to act as a painkiller.
There is no evidence that Baltic amber has analgesic effects at any dose, and definitely not at the minute amounts that might enter the body through the touch of a thin string of beads on the skin.
There is also no evidence that succinic acid is released from amber on skin contact, or that warming it to body temperature would release it.
Other risks of teething jewelry include injury to the mouth or infection if a piece of the jewelry irritates or pierces the child’s gums.
Risk of Bacterial Colonization
Long-term wearing off and sucking on beads don’t clean them. In fact, the beads carry a potential infectious risk due to the bacteria that they host.
This prospective observational study analyzed the bacteria present on amber necklaces worn by 27 children during hospital consultations.
All the necklaces were colonized by bacteria, each necklace by at least four different species!
Most of the bacteria were saprophytes – microorganisms that live on dead or decaying organic matter. Yuk!
The problem? These microorganisms may become pathogenic under particular conditions and make a child sick.
What to Do Instead
Parents can take comfort in the fact that the irritability and niggling associated with teething tend to come and go for only a few days before and after a tooth appears.
In this time, there are a number of things parents can do to ease their child’s discomfort.
The FDA suggests gently rubbing or massaging the child’s gums with a clean finger or giving the child a teething ring made of firm rubber.
The teething ring should not be frozen as it will be too hard and hurt the child’s gums.
Warning Against Over-the-Counter Medications
The FDA warns parents to avoid teething creams and benzocaine gels, sprays, ointments, solutions, and lozenges.
These products contain benzocaine and other local anesthetics that can cause methemoglobinemia, a serious condition which reduces the amount of oxygen carried through the blood.
This condition is life-threatening and can result in death.