When your baby starts teething and whimpering in discomfort, it’s likely that somebody will suggest buying an amber necklace. Baltic amber necklaces contains succinic acid, which purportedly offer anti-inflammatory drooling- and teething-pain-reduction properties. Retailers claim that when warmed by the baby’s body, the amber releases a pain-relieving substance that is then absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream.
Many people, including celebrities, swear by the effectiveness of amber necklaces. As you can see, Rachel Zoe was a fan, outfitting her son Skyler with one (so you know they’re stylish, at least):
Likewise with Gisele and her daughter Vivian:
But does it work?
Upon talking with actual doctors, it becomes clear that not only are the necklaces ineffective, but they are also downright dangerous.
BuzzFeed spoke to Dr. Brent Bauer, director of the Mayo Clinic Complimentary and Integrative Medicine Program, who says “there is no plausible mechanism of action” when it comes to amber teething necklaces.
But…but… what about that succinic acid?
“There is no indication appreciable amounts could be absorbed transdermally,” says Dr. Bauer. Meaning: it is highly unlikely that simply wearing one of these necklaces against the skin can benefit your baby.
Copyright: littledesire / 123RF Stock Photo
The Larger Concern
Teething necklaces pose a significant suffocation hazard, especially if children are left unattended.
“The risk is two-fold — strangulation and choking,” said Dr. Natasha Burgert, a pediatrician in Kansas City, Mo., who has blogged about the dangers of amber necklaces. “And that’s not only for these teething necklaces. In general practice, the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend that infants wear any jewelry.”
In 2010, Health Canada, the country’s federal department of public health, determined that the necklaces were enough of an issue to warrant a consumer product safety warning underscoring the strangulation risk. France and Switzerland have actually banned pharmacies from selling the necklaces.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suffocation is the leading cause of death for children under a year old and among the top five causes of death for children between the ages of 1 and 4 — and one loose bead is enough for a child to choke on, said Dr. Isabelle Claudet, head of the pediatric emergency department at Children’s Hospital in Toulouse, France.
But I see a huge difference in my baby!
It’s just confirmation bias, not actual data. There’s no biologic way for this to work. And, stop to think about if it actually did work–you’d be delivering a drug to your child with no way to control dose, absorption, or absorption rate. Plus, why assume there would be only one chemical your child is absorbing?
The good news is, there are plenty of safe teething remedies. You find a list of them here.