Baltic amber necklaces have become a popular alternative treatment for babies who are teething and dealing with related gum pain; however, the necklaces pose choking hazard risks.
Sellers of Baltic amber teething necklaces say that when the amber is warmed by the baby’s body, the amber releases pain-relieving properties that are absorbed by the skin into the bloodstream, according to The New York Times’ “Well” blog. According to Well, not only is there no evidence to back up these claims, the necklaces may pose very serious choking hazards to children, especially if left unattended.
“The risk is two-fold — strangulation and choking,” Dr. Natasha Burgert, a pediatrician in Kansas City, Missouri, who has also written about the dangers associated with amber necklaces, told Well. “And that’s not only for these teething necklaces. In general practice, the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend that infants wear any jewelry.”
When asked on his blog, DrWeil.com, about the benefits of amber necklaces for teething babies, Dr. Weil wrote, “I’m unfamiliar with amber teething necklaces, so I checked with Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., director of the fellowship at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, and an authority on botanical medicine. She told me that the use of these necklaces is not supported by modern science. She also noted she is not a huge fan of putting necklaces on infants due to the potential risk of choking any jewelry poses, including hazards from swallowing a bead if the necklace is broken.”
According to DrWeil.com, the amber necklaces are often advertised as being able to stimulate the thyroid gland, which, in turn, controls drooling, and improves the immune system’s ability to reduce inflammation in the ears, throat, stomach, and respiratory system.
Health Canada, in 2010, also found that amber necklaces posed sufficient danger to warrant a consumer product safety warning over strangulation risks, according to Well. France and Switzerland have banned the sale of the amber teething necklaces in pharmacies there.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suffocation is the number one cause of death for babies under one year of age and is in the top five causes of death for children between the ages of one and four, Well reported.
Sellers of the Baltic amber teething necklaces say that because the beads are individually knotted, should a necklace break, only one piece falls off. But, just one bead is sufficient to choke a child, said Dr. Isabelle Claudet, head of the pediatric emergency department at Children’s Hospital in Toulouse, France, wrote Well. Dr. Claudet and colleagues also published a study concerning why parents continued to use the necklaces despite their known suffocations risks, which was published in 2012 in The Archives of Pediatrics. Parents perceived the immediate stress of teething distress outweighed what they perceived to be the abstract choking or strangulation potential, according to Well.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends other remedies that do not present safety hazards such as lightly massaging the babies gums; giving them a soft, pliable item to chew, such as a damp, clean washcloth that has been frozen; or rubber teething rings that are not frozen solid, as these could harm sensitive gums. “When people see their kid suffering, they just want a solution,” said Dr. Burgert, pointing out that homeopathic alternatives, like amber necklaces, may appear to be a viable alternative to medication, but they are not without serious risks, Well wrote.