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What's up, Doc? Are amber teething necklaces safe?

Q: I’ve seen amber necklaces for babies that are intended to ease teething pain. Does this remedy work? Is it safe?

A: Infants and toddlers are developmentally primed to put objects of curiosity into their mouths, so pediatricians worry about small objects that could enter the respiratory tract and cause breathing difficulties or choking.

Vendors of the necklaces claim that Baltic amber contains succinic acid, which when released in response to body temperature, they purport, has analgesic benefits. There are no studies to support this, and the claims are not reliable enough to risk the threat of choking and/or strangulation.

Despite the known and well-acknowledged risks of the amber teething necklaces, they continue to be used frequently enough to warrant public health sanctions. In 2010, Canada’s government issued a consumer product safety warning regarding the strangulation risk, and France and Switzerland have banned their sale in pharmacies.

So what are options when your infant appears to be suffering from teething pain? The safest approach is offering your baby something cool and pliable to chew on, such as a washcloth or teething ring that has been placed in the freezer. Be sure, however, to avoid objects that may break off or disintegrate with sucking, that would then cause a choking hazard. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is also safe for infants, and Ibuprofen is safe for infants 6 months and older. Please discuss dosing intervals and guidelines with your pediatrician.

-Dr. Julie King, Pavilion Pediatrics 

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