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Easing teething: The good, the bad and the dangerous

By The Health News Team | July 17, 2023
Baby with teething ring

As any harried parent knows, teething is not for the faint of heart. One day your baby is giggling through peek-a-boo and the next, they’re hurling toys. It’s a battle parents have fought for years.

Today, trendy techniques are everywhere. There are rings, gems, gels — you name it. But do they work? And more importantly, are they safe? We asked Dr. Daniel Yu, a pediatrician with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group to weigh in.

What to expect

Your baby’s teeth will usually come in after 6 months of age, Dr. Yu says. But it varies from child to child. The symptoms can vary too.

“Your child's gums may become swollen or tender,” Dr. Yu says. “The most common symptoms include biting, mouthing, drooling, gum rubbing, irritability, decreased appetite for solid food and low-grade fever.”

Additionally, some parents report ear pulling, coughing or a runny nose. These are all things that shouldn’t be overlooked as “just” a teething symptom.

"Teething does not cause cough, nasal congestion, runny nose, ear pulling, diarrhea, rashes, vomiting, poor fluid intake or high fever,” Dr. Yu says. “If you notice these symptoms, talk with your child's doctor, as they could be the first sign of an infection.”

The do’s

When it comes to teething pain, good old-fashioned tactics work best. Something cold and firm placed directly on the gums will offer the best relief.

Dr. Yu suggests the following ways to safely help your teething child:

  • Freezer rings: Make sure they’re not too hard or too cold. Remove them from the freezer for a few minutes before giving the rings to baby so they can soften up. Be sure the ring is intact and not pierced or broken.

  • Gentle massage: Wash your hands, then rub the gums gently with your finger.

  • Pain medicine: An over-the-counter children’s pain medicine containing acetaminophen could help with pain. Consult your baby’s doctor before use and reference the dosage instructions based on your baby’s age.

The don’ts

For years, over-the-counter homeopathic remedies, such as pills and gels, were touted as natural solutions to teething. However, they were later recalled for safety reasons. The problem? The Food and Drug Administration linked the common ingredient, belladonna, to seizures, fever, tremors and even death.

Dr. Yu’s top list of teething remedies to avoid includes:

  • Homeopathic teething products: As per the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines, they are not recommended. Your child is not in danger if you have given these to your baby in the past, as the reaction has only been shown to occur at the time of use.

  • Amber necklaces: There is no scientific evidence to support that amber necklaces or bracelets work to help teething. What’s more, they can pose a choking hazard.

  • Dipped pacifier: Although a chilled pacifier can help with teething, dipping it in honey or sugar could cause tooth decay. Plus, honey contains spores that could cause a dangerous condition called infant botulism.

“While uncomfortable for babies and distressing to their parents, teething usually lasts for one week — four days prior to tooth eruption and three days following,” Dr. Yu says.

It’s important to remember that teething isn’t forever. Your baby’s teeth will find their way in, and eventually, the screaming will cease. Until then, sit back, breathe and remember it’s all just part of the adventure.

Learn more about children's health; get the latest health and wellness news, trends and patient stories from Sharp Health News; and subscribe to our weekly newsletter by clicking the "Sign up" link below.

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