Teething is the process by which your infant’s primary teeth sequentially appear by emerging through the gums. Teething babies are irritable, restless, have swollen gums and loss of appetite in a majority of cases. As a parent, when you see your baby in discomfort, it is natural for you to do anything to help your child by giving teething tablets or over the counter gels. But are they safe? Probably, No.
Primary teeth typically occur in pairs. Teething starts at about 3- 9 months of age and when it starts, babies are usually fussy. Ideally, you should stay away from teething tablets or over the counter gels.
So, what can you do instead, to help your baby? Let’s look at the classic symptoms of teething and how to comfort your baby without using medications or teething tablets.
Classic symptoms of teething
Most babies begin to teeth around 3-9 months of age. There are some common symptoms usually seen in most kids. However, some kids may not show any such symptom. The classic symptoms of teething include –
- Swollen and tender gums
- Fussy babies and crying more than usual
- A slightly raised temperature (less than 101F temperature)
- Excessive drooling
- Wanting to chew on hard things
- Change in eating or sleeping pattern. (1)
Teething can be more painful for some babies than others, but teething doesn’t make babies sick. If your baby has diarrhea, vomiting, rashes on the body, cough, and congestion or high fever, then you need to see your doctor.
Many parents use teething tablets for their babies to comfort them without knowing the pros or cons. Let us delve into what are teething tablets, how they work and do they have side effects. We will also discuss home care methods as an alternative to teething tablets.
What are teething tablets?
Teething tablets are a homeopathic treatment for teething pain. They are typically in the form of pellets. You have to place this quick dissolving tablet under your baby’s tongue or mix the tablet into milk or water.
These tablets promise fast relief. These tablets contain herbal ingredients like chamomile or coffee seed extract. Chamomile helps with irritability whereas coffee seed extract helps children sleep well.
Parents gravitate towards teething tablets because they feel using herbal products is being eco-friendly. Are they safe?
Efficacy of teething tablets
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates homeopathic medicines, but it doesn’t evaluate them to ascertain if they are safe or effective. If there is a case against any homeopathic product, the FDA will ban that medicine.
But at the same time, FDA won’t stop a manufacturer from putting a drug on the shelf. There is not much research done on these products, so nobody knows the potential risks unless someone files a complaint.
Preliminary studies suggest that chamomile may help in anxiety disorders. However, there is not much research evidence are in place regarding its effect on its use in teething tablets. As a result, many pediatricians don’t recommend the use of teething tablets.
Are teething tablets safe?
A professional homeopath knows what herbs to use with which patients and how to dose them accordingly. A typical parent, who uses teething tablets, does not understand the risks associated with it.
A regulatory agent doesn’t test homeopathy teething tablets, so using them for an infant is risky.
In the recent past, a manufacturer of a major teething tablet made headlines for all the wrong reasons. According to complaints, the teething tablets of the company contained belladonna as stated on the ingredient label.
In the teething tablets, belladonna (2) far exceeded the specifications on the product label and caused adverse effects and death of 10 children. Belladonna has many medical applications, but the list of side effects is long. In infants, the side effect can be fatal too.
If children, under two years of age, take belladonna orally, then it puts them at unnecessary risk due to the side effects.
Even medicated gels have side effects. So, parents should stay away from teething tablets and gels, even if the manufacturing company is very well-known.
It is never wise to put your baby’s life at risk by using a product marketed without much research.
Side effects of teething tablets
In homeopathic medicines, the ingredients are greatly diluted. Ideally, there should not be any side effects of homeopathic medicine. Since there is no FDA regulation, opting for a homeopathic teething tablet is still under a scanner.
Teething tablets may cause several complications in your child such as difficulty in breathing, muscle weakness, skin flushing or seizure. Contact your doctor immediately if you notice any such symptoms.
Alternate options instead of teething tablets
There are several ways to relieve your baby without using teething tablets. Some of them are –
Rub your baby’s gums
Use a clean finger or clean cloth to rub your baby’s gums. The pressure applied on the surface of the gums may ease your baby’s discomfort. You can also let them chew on your clean fingers if the teeth haven’t come through yet.
Options such as a tightly rolled cold washcloth, a spoon or chilled teething ring can be soothing on a baby’s gum. Make sure that the teething ring is not frozen. Also, avoid plastic teething rings containing liquids.
There have been complaints of bacterial growth in the liquid of the teething ring and a baby may bite through the ring. Latex chewy toys may be a safer bet. Cold objects help reduce inflammation as well. (3)
If your baby is eating hard foods, offer something edible to chew on such as a peeled cucumber or carrot. Keep a close watch on your baby so that he/she doesn’t choke on a broken piece of carrot. Never put any food that may cause the child to choke.
Use of pain medications
Oral medicine, Acetaminophen (children’s Tylenol), helps reduce pain. Ibuprofen should not be used in infants less than six months old. Don’t use topical pain reliever containing benzocaine for children below two years of age.
Benzocaine (4) causes rare but serious side effects. Do not give aspirin-containing products to children.
Though these medications are available over the counter, it is better to consult your child’s pediatrician before taking any such medicine.
Over to you on teething tablets
You can help your teething baby by following above natural remedies at home. Avoid teething tablets even if common notion says that homeopathic medicines are safe. Remember, what works for one baby may not work for your baby.
You may have to use a combination of the options available and see which works best for your baby. Also, start thinking about introducing oral care for your baby’s new teeth. Taking good care of teeth should begin as early as the first tooth erupts.