Amber Teething Necklaces: WARNING

Amber Teething Necklace: Warning

I have always loved the look of the very trendy amber teething necklaces that I have seen many a bub wearing. I have been lucky to have kids that cut teeth without a whimper. A bit of dribble, bright red cheeks and a few days later- teeth! So I have never had the need for one. I constantly hear from other mum’s that they are amazing, but I have never really understood how they supposedly worked. Last week I was looking for a gift for a friend’s child’s first birthday and saw an amber teething necklace. Tempted to buy I decided to find out what all the fuss was about first and came across something pretty disturbing…. The Australian Competitor and Consumer Commision (ACCC), Kidsafe NSW, the QLD Office of Fair Trading and NSW Health have all recently put out warnings about the risks of using amber teething necklaces in children under 3.

What is an amber teething necklace?

Amber is a naturally occurring mineral, a fossilised tree resin, or sap. Amber teething necklaces are made from polished chips of this resin. The necklaces come in a range of colours from white-yellow to beige or brown. Manufacturers claim that the darker the amber, the more therapeutic its properties. The purity and location of the source of the amber is also said to effect its quality.

How do they work?

Amber is said to have healing properties and when worn next to the skin, these benefits are supposedly passed on. The warmth of the skin reputedly releases an element called Succinic acid contained in the amber. The Succinic acid is meant to be absorbed through the child’s skin and into their blood stream. It is this which is said to deliver the relief from pain associated with teething as Succinic acid reportedly  has an anti-inflammatory effect.

Unfortunately it seems these claims about the benefits of amber teething necklaces are not scientifically based. Amber in fact needs to be heated to over 200 degrees celsius before any Succinic acid can be released and considering the normal body temperature of a baby is around 36-37 degrees then any transfer onto the skin seems very unlikely. Further more, the amount of Succinic acid contained in a necklace the size worn by children is so small that even if it were able to be absorbed through the skin it would have no effect.

Why the concern?

A recent surge in the popularity of amber teething necklaces has also seen a surge in the number of chocking incidents and other injuries associated with the necklaces and this has prompted government authorities to issue public warnings.

Choking and strangulation are the two major risks involved with small children wearing amber teething necklaces. The necklaces do come with knots in the cords between each bead, but there is still a risk of one of the beads breaking off and the baby inhaling it especially if the necklaces is worn long enough for the baby to chew. Babies  have very narrow wind pipes and if obstructed with even the smallest object, air cannot flow into or out of their lungs. This is obviously a very serious risk. The other risk is that children can be strangled by the necklace. The necklace can become caught on household furniture or play equipment (to name a few) and could literally strangle the child.

What should I do?

Many parents and their children LOVE these necklaces. I say believe what you want to believe, if the necklaces work for you, or you just like them as a fashion accessory then go for it. Just make sure you do so safely.

A few general tips:

1. You should always read the manufacturer’s instructions and follow them carefully. You should also keep instructions. If you experience any problems with the necklace you should contact the manufacturer and let them know so that they can improve the product.

2. Each time you put the necklace on you should inspect it checking for any broken or shattered beads or fraying of the cord. If the necklace is starting to deteriorate in anyway throw it away.

3. Importantly you should never allow your baby to chew on the necklace. This could potentially weaken it and your child could dislodge and swallow or inhale a bead.

The Australian Consumer Commission has given safety guidelines to parents currently using the necklaces, these rules should be followed at all times when using the necklaces:

Consumers using this product are advised to:

  • always supervise the infant when wearing the necklace or bracelet
  • remove the necklace or bracelet when the infant is unattended, even if it is only for a short period of time
  • remove the necklace or bracelet while the infant sleeps at day or night
  • not allow the infant to mouth or chew the necklace or bracelet
  • consider using alternate forms of pain relief
  • seek medical advice if you have concerns about your child’s health.

You can read the warnings about amber teething necklaces here:

http://www.fairtrading.qld.gov.au/amber-teething-necklace.htm

http://www.productsafety.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/981051

Remember always check with your child health nurse or doctor if you have any questions regarding your babies health and wellbeing

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