Parents have long been concerned with what sort of teething products to use on their babies. The pain caused by teething is real, and it is very difficult to provide babies with just the right amount of medication to ease the pain without unintentionally overdosing.
As such, teething products are highly regulated, and many parents refuse to use them at all, instead turning to more “natural” remedies in hopes of finding something that is appropriate and safe for use with their baby.
History of Complications
In recent years, this has lead to an increased use of homeopathic remedies. While the FDA still recommends against the use of any homeopathic remedy not subject to rigorous safety testing, many parents swear by the effectiveness of homeopathic gels and chews. These products claim to offer a 100% natural method of reducing teething pain by delivering natural remedies to the source of pain. As they are considered “dietary supplements” they are not evaluated by the FDA, and their ingredient list considered a trade secret, although most homeopathic remedies list their active ingredients and concentrations on the exterior packaging.
Most parents who provide their children with homeopathic teething products have experienced no adverse complications whatsoever. However, over one hundred children have died in what appear to be complications related to the use of such products. Additionally, over four hundred children have had poisonings and other illnesses which have been traced back to these products, leading to an extensive investigation and many stores pulling them from shelves. Symptoms of these poisonings include fever, lethargy, vomiting, sleepiness, tremors, shortness of breath, irritability and agitation. While an outright recall or ban has not yet been imposed, many manufacturers are recalling their products or canceling production entirely.
Problems and Warnings
The problem seems to be related to the presence of belladonna, also known as deadly nightshade, within the teething products. Homeopathic remedies are based on having a highly dilute solution of a particular poison, under the theory that such dilute concentrations can impart beneficial effects when consumed. Belladonna was used in ancient times as a form of pain control, although it has since been supplanted by less dangerous plant extracts such as aspirin. As such, homeopathic remedies often include very dilute concentrations of belladonna as a form of pain management.
Whether or not these homeopathic medicines have been tainted by improper dilutions of belladonna is not clear, however, it is clear that tests have revealed extremely varying levels of belladonna within these products. This wide variability means that many particular batches, or even just individual doses, may contain harmful levels of the plant extract.
In response, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a warning stating that any products which claim to contain any amount of belladonna should not be given to children, due to the high risk that even very small quantities of the drug can pose. They have further stated that, painful as teething is, the risk of an overdose of any drug-based treatment far exceeds the benefits. Instead, they recommend parents use gum massages, soft chews, and warm washcloths to work the gums gently and assuage the pain without the use of any medications, including both belladonna and benzocaine based gels, chews and pills.
Mark Sadaka from Pharma Watch Dog, the leading Drug Injury Attorney, has a national practice and works with clients from New York to Alaska.