Any couple that has become a parent knows that teething is a normal part of childhood. The average age a child starts teething is between 4 to 6 months, and by age 3 they should have all 20 baby teeth. While it can cause irritability, fussiness, fevers, and pain in an infant or child, it is usually not dangerous and will pass with time.
The danger comes when parents try to use homeopathic remedies to soothe teething infants or children. According to a recent report from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), teething tablets, jewelry, prescription medicines, and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines can all be dangerous and should be avoided. The FDA has been warning consumers for a decade now, but the reports of illnesses and deaths have continued and now the FDA is calling for certain products to be taken off the market.
One of the biggest issues are the gels, sprays, ointments, and various solutions that contain a main ingredient called benzocaine, which is a local anesthetic. Benzocaine can cause a rare blood disease associated with breathing problems called methemoglobinemia where the oxygen-carrying capacity of red blood cells is greatly diminished. Essentially, the oxygen level in blood becomes dangerously low and in some instances can be fatal. Some of the most common symptoms of this condition can include lightheadedness, headache, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, sleepiness, unnaturally pale skin, and nails turning blue or gray. Benzocaine can be found in all of the most popular products for infants and children and is also used in popular over-the-counter products for toothaches and cold sores in adults, including Orajel, Anbesol, and a lot of generic drugstore brands as well.
Another big concern is teething tablets, which typically contain ingredients such as Chamomilla, which is meant to help with irritability, and Coffea Cruda meant to help stop sleeplessness. While many parents swear by these, the supplement industry is not regulated by the FDA and there is no way to verify exactly what is inside it without having it professionally analyzed. Teething tablets have been linked to containing potentially dangerous or toxic ingredients. Parents should seek medical care immediately if their child experiences seizures, difficulty breathing, lethargy, excessive sleepiness, muscle weakness, skin flushing, constipation, difficulty urinating, or agitation after using homeopathic teething products.
The last big issue is the danger of teething jewelry like necklaces, bracelets, and anklets, such as amber teething necklaces. These have been linked to reports of death and serious injuries to infants and children, including strangulation, choking, injury to the mouth, and infection. They are often used by parents and caregivers to relieve an infant or child’s teething pain, but are also used in other ailments, such as autism or adults with special needs. In addition to choking and strangulation concerns, amber teething necklaces contain a substance called succinic acid, which allegedly may be released into an infant’s bloodstream in unknown quantities. Furthermore, there is currently no scientific research or evidence to back up manufacturer claims that teething jewelry even works.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the best way to treat teething symptoms is naturally by gently massaging your infant or child’s gums with your finger or giving them a safe teething ring made of firm rubber. Remember to always watch your infant or child when using a teething ring in case pieces break off. It’s also recommended to never freeze a teething ring as this can damage the infant or child’s gums but you may chill it in the refrigerator.