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The Risk of Amber Teething Necklaces

September is National Baby Safety Month. Amber teething necklaces have become quite popular over the last year, but Lori Benninghoff, Physician Assistant at Wall Street Pediatrics, shares a warning about the risk of these necklaces and why you should avoid using them.

In recent months, I have been seeing more and more infants come into our office with amber teething necklaces. Parents who have been up three times the night before with a teething infant are seeking relief (and sleep!) Teething seems to get blamed for everything from diarrhea to fever and loss of appetite. The claim is that the succinic acids in the stones will soak into the skin and provide symptom relief due to its “anti-inflammatory” properties. So do they really work?

The Gemological institute of America defines baltic amber as "a fossilized resin that originates from tree and plant sources, thousands of years ago, from regions around the Baltic Sea". Additionally it states that “amber has been of scientific importance because plant and animal life from the geological past is often preserved in its resin. Amber from the Baltic region constitutes the largest known deposit of fossil plant resin and the richest repository of fossil insects of any geological age”(Source). In order to produce a fossil, amber would need to have been exposed to high pressure and heat, as well as various exposure to the elements (wind, rain, etc.) It would be pretty miraculous for a child’s normal body temperature of 98.6 to cause these thousands of years old fossils to release any succinic acid. If it is strong enough to preserve plant and animal life for this sustained period of time, it would need to be amazingly strong and impenetrable. Even if it was absorbed, succinic acid is listed on a material safety data sheet to cause “potential acute health effects: Hazardous in case of skin contact (irritant), of eye contact (irritant), of ingestion, of inhalation.” Studies related to potential carcinogenic (cancer causing) and teratogenic effects are not available (Source). 

The bottom line is there is no good evidence to show that baltic amber is effective for teething pain, despite what you might read on Facebook. Additionally, jewelry of any kind in an infant is a choking hazard and poses a risk for strangulation and death. Even if the necklace is designed to break easily under tension, the beads themselves are a choking hazard and can become lodged in your child’s airway, nose, or ear.

It is important to keep in mind that teething is a normal developmental milestone in children and it is temporary. At our office, we recommend avoiding teething gels or homeopathic tablets. Instead, use firm teething toys and occasionally infant Tylenol, if approved by your doctor. Additionally, teething should never cause a temperature over 100.4 F. If your infant has a fever, you should always contact your child’s pediatrician.

This post was written by Lori Benninghoff, Physician Assistant at Wall Street Pediatrics.

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