Doctors warn parents not to give babies teething necklaces after shock deaths

Top doctors have warned UK parents against using trendy amber teething necklaces that are all the rage in the US.

A safety alert has gone out in North America following reports that children have been killed and seriously injured after they choked on the necklaces, which are a kind of plastic dummy for teething infants.

Now there are fears the soothers are being bought online by parents in Britain as they are advertised for around 15 US dollars on Amazon, which ships goods to the UK for a fee.

Dr Lucy Grain, a consultant paediatrician at Great Western Hospital in Swindon, Wilts, said she has already seen ‘up to fifty’ of the amber necklaces and bracelets worn by youngsters in her clinic.

It is claimed that oils supposedly released by the amber necklaces, which have enjoyed growing popularity among parents in recent years, have a sooting affect on teething babies.

But Dr Grain dismissed the ‘pseudo-science’ behind the necklaces as wrong, and said they were potential killers.

Warning parents of the dangers of the necklaces, she pointed to a safety notice issued just before Christmas by the US Food and Drug Administration, alerting parents to cases of children dying or being seriously injured after choking on the jewellery.

"For some time, I have had many anxieties about babies wearing teething necklaces" she said.

"I had seen them in clinic a number of times and I felt anxious seeing anything around a baby’s neck.

"On a number of occasions I said to parents I had concerns about the necklaces.

"Sadly, children have died as a result of choking or strangulation from teething necklaces and this makes the dangers all the more present and concerning."

People who advocate using the necklaces claim the amber in them releases oils containing succinic acid when the stones are warmed by the baby’s skin.

The acid supposedly has a pain-relieving effect.

But Dr Grain blasted the idea as ‘not biologically plausible’.

She said: "I would warn very strongly against the use of teething necklaces, and instead encourage parents of young babies to consider other teething options such as rubber teething rings or dummies."

Issuing last month’s alert from the US FDA, Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said: "We know that teething necklaces and jewellery products have become increasingly popular among parents and caregivers who want to provide relief for children’s teething pain and sensory stimulation for children with special needs.

"We’re concerned about the risks we’ve observed with these products and want parents to be aware that teething jewellery puts children, including those with special needs, at risk of serious injury and death."

One sleeping 18-month-old child had been strangled to death by his amber teething necklace, the FDA said.

In other cases, children had choked on beads that broke off the necklaces.

Babies begin teething from around six months. As the babies’ first teeth push through their gums it can cause soreness, leading youngsters to chew to relieve pain.

Teething necklaces and bracelets are made of amber, wood, marble or silicone.

They are marketed to relieve teething pain and sometimes are used to provide sensory stimulation to people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

According to Dr Andrew Weil, a world-renowned leader and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, the use of these necklaces is not supported by modern science.

Retailers claim that when warmed by the baby’s body temperature, the amber releases a pain-relieving substance that is then absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream.

It is claimed that they stimulate the thyroid gland to control drooling, and improve the ability of the immune system to reduce inflammation in the ears, throat, stomach and respiratory system.

But there is currently no scientific research or evidence to back up these claims, said Dr Weil.

A leading US paediatrician, Natasha Burgert, warned: "The risk is two-fold…strangulation and choking."

She said the risk is when the necklaces are worn around a child’s neck, especially when unsupervised, such as while sleeping, or if the child were to break the necklace and swallow the beads.

The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend that infants wear any jewellery.

Suffocation is the leading cause of death for children under a year old and among the top five causes of death for children between the ages of one and four.

Advice for parents using necklace

  • Always supervise your child when he or she is wearing the necklace or bracelet
  • Have your child wear the necklace on a wrist or ankle and not around his or her neck
  • Remember to remove the necklace or bracelet when your child is unattended, even if it is only for a short period of time
  • Remove the necklace or bracelet while your child is sleeping (day or night)
  • Consider using alternate forms of teething pain relief – there are many teething-pain relievers that can soothe your baby’s sore gums safely

Tips worth trying

  • Chew toys. Plastic and rubber toys are great for soothing aching gums
  • Cold things. For help numbing and easing the ache and inflammation, try using damp washcloths that have been twisted and frozen (tie one end in a knot for better gnawing). Avoid teething rings that are frozen solid; they are too hard for children’s mouths
  • Massage. A light, gentle rub or massage might give your little one a lot of relief. Remember to wash your hands, then massage the sore areas in your baby’s mouth with your finger or knuckle
  • Medicine. When your baby is having a really tough time, ask your pediatrician about giving a dose of acetaminophen (Tylenol). Note: Numbing gels or creams that contain benzocaine are not recommended for infants

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