Safe Teething Remedies

Collage made up of three antique advertisements for teething remedies and three images of teething babies, one chewing on plastic rings, one chewing on his hand, and one wearing an amber necklace.

There’s nothing worse than your child being in pain, even when you know it’s temporary. It’s no surprise that parents through the ages have reached for anything that might relieve their child’s teething.

As the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) describes, “teething occasionally may cause mild irritability, crying, a low-grade temperature, excessive drooling, and a desire to chew on something hard.” The symptoms often seem much worse than they are, “because teething happens during a time of much change in a baby’s life, it is often wrongly blamed for congestion, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, and sleep disturbances,” as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) explains.

Everything from slicing the gums to rubbing rabbit brains on the gums have been tried, and obviously, have failed. Modern parents still reach for remedies that range from unhelpful to harmful.

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Safe Solutions for Teething Symptoms

The FDA recommends just two remedies for swollen gums:

  1. Gently rub or massage the child’s gums with your finger.
  2. Give your child a teething ring made of firm rubber to chew on. Ensure the teething ring is not frozen solid, and supervise to make sure the child doesn’t accidentally choke on the teething ring.

Check with your child’s doctor if these remedies aren’t helping. They may recommend the painkillers acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil). These are safe when used at the recommended dosages.

Teething Trouble: Avoid these Risky Remedies

Pediatrician Chad Hayes lists four teething remedies that should be avoided:

  1. Topical gels such as Orajel. The active ingredient, benzocaine, can cause a life-threatening condition that reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood.
  2. Homeopathic teething tablets such as Hyland’s. These tablets were been found to have belladona, a toxic plant, at levels that could harm small children. They also do not work.
  3. Amber necklaces. They present a real danger of strangulation or choking, even with safety clasps and knots between beads. They also do not work. If you must, the AAP has suggestions on how to use them as safely as possible.
  4. Hard liquor. For infants, even small amounts of brandy, whiskey, rum, or other hard liquor can be toxic.

For further reading, Dr. Hayes has written a fascinating history of teething.

Featured image sources: Boston Public Library, Sharyn MorrowJustin McGregor via Flickr