Q: I started seeing amber teething necklaces at play groups when my oldest daughter was about six months old. It’s a necklace made of small amber beads. I’ve asked a few parents if they think it helps and those that I’ve spoken to have always shrugged and said, “It doesn’t hurt, right?” Fair enough, but does it?
A: Some people say that the succinic acid in the amber is supposed to have an analgesic effect similar to Tylenol but more natural and that it is absorbed through the child’s skin. There are no scientific studies to indicate the necklace relieves pain or discomfort.
Ireland’s Health Service Executive disagrees. Their website reads as follows:
The HSE recommends you never use amber teething jewelry for your baby. These can be necklaces, anklets, or bracelets. Amber teething jewelry can choke your baby.
In December 2018, the US Food and Drug Administration issued a notice for parents and caregivers cautioning against the use of teething jewelry. The notice reads:
Do not use necklaces, bracelets, or any other jewelry marketed for relieving teething pain. The use of these products can lead to serious injuries including strangulation or choking. Be aware that the use of jewelry marketed for relieving teething pain or provide sensory stimulation to people with special needs can lead to serious injuries including strangulation or choking.
The Canadian Pediatric Society went so far as to test the force required to break their clasp which is a safety feature intended to prevent strangulation. The study found that out of 10 necklaces tested with 1.6 pounds of force (enough to choke a child), just two necklaces broke and the other eight remained intact.
On October 5, 2016, an 18 month old boy in California died of strangulation allegedly due to his amber teething necklace while napping at daycare. His mother disputes the claim that the necklace was solely to blame, indicating negligent child care workers are at fault. She obtained a conviction against two of the workers in July 2018. Still, the details of his death are unclear and potentially attributed to his amber teething necklace. Based on my reading the daycare was either negligent by failure to remove the necklace for nap time or he could have been so grossly unsupervised that it got caught on something resulting in his death. This is an unimaginable tragedy and even if the necklace played a small role, coupled with the lack of scientific evidence to indicate they reduce pain, I see no need for our kids to ever wear them.
As parents we have enough to worry about, let us not add to our worry by purchasing something for our children that at least three different countries’ health agencies have unequivocally advised against. Instead, opt for a round hard rubber teething ring for them to chew on and know that the fussiness will pass.