Jan 23, 2017

Dr. Gellner: Some teething products have been labeled not safe by the FDA. Why, and what can you do for your little teether? That's today's topic on The Scope. I'm Dr. Cindy Gellner.

Announcer: Keep your kids healthy and happy. You are now entering the healthy kid zone with Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope.

Dr. Gellner: Teething tablets have been quite popular ever since old remedies like Paregoric have been discontinued, but recent reports indicate these aren't a good idea either. For teething tablets, the main ingredient is belladonna. That is deadly nightshade. Interestingly, the name belladonna is derived from Italian, and it means beautiful woman because the herb was used in eye drops by women to dilate their pupils to make them appear more appealing to men. The same effects of this plant on the nervous system can cause babies to have lethargy, vomiting, tremors, be more agitated and even have difficulty breathing.

The main issue with these teething tablets is that the amount of belladonna in them is not consistent. These are homeopathic products and so there are no strict guidelines on how much of the active ingredient is in the product like there is for medications. Ten children have died and over 400 have had serious side effects associated with teething tablet use. While the FDA's investigation is still ongoing, some stores have pulled these products off their shelves.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has also warned parents to stay away from these teething tablets as well as teething gels that contain benzocaine. Benzocaine numbs your baby's mouth, but it can also cause a severe blood problem called methemoglobinemia that can be fatal.

Instead of teething tablets or gels, pediatricians suggest gum massages, teething rings, a cold wet washcloth, or a weight appropriate dose of acetaminophen if your child is really struggling with teething. Avoid hard foods and objects that could pose a choking hazard to your child. Most babies make it through the teething process without any problems. If your child seems to be having an especially hard time with teething, talk to their pediatrician. The problem may not be related to teething at all.

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