Sweigart Report: Crystal Woo For Kids | Vol. 4 / No. 13.1

Just get your kid a teething ring. | Photo: James St. John, CC BY 2.0

It’s Monday, and things (as usual) are bonkers. Today: homeopathic teething remedies.

Natural/crunchy mom bloggers are sometimes unfortunate purveyors of some serious woo. The ones I worked with in my previous life do try and find scientific studies to support what they do, but they have an innate distrust in the mainstream, Big Pharma, and basically any industry that is controlled by corporations. Coconut oil solves everything, cloth diapers are amazing, and they make their own baby food and personal care products. Some of this stuff is okay. And some really, really isn’t.

So let’s talk about teething. It’s when an infant’s first teeth begin breaking through the gum line. It’s painful, irritating, it makes the baby drool enough to cause facial rash, and not be able to sleep. All bad things in a parent’s book.

One of the more popular products to help soothe a teething child’s gums is an amber necklace. As in beads of the fossilized tree sap that may or may not contain mosquitoes with dino DNA.

Here are some “facts” about the necklaces — and my comments about them — taken from an amber necklace vendor:

  • A source of traditional healing passed through generations (This is a big red flag for any claim, because tradition/ancient wisdom isn’t scientifically proven or even PROVEN.)
  • Natural, drug-free alternative with analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties (No proof and second red flag, the naturalistic fallacy. Just because it’s natural, doesn’t mean it’s better for you.)
  • Amber is radiant with energies of peace and calm (…crystal woo.)
  • It has succinic acid, which has a “positive influence” on the body (Yes, it has this acid, but this acid has no medical benefits and is used as an inactive ingredient in pharmaceuticals. And the amount theoretically in a single necklace is around homeopathy levels, therefore meaningless. Also, Baltic amber, the kind they recommend, doesn’t release its succinic acid at body temperature.)
  • Amber has soothing/calming effects because when it is worn, it releases “healing oils” (…again, PROOF?)
  • Protects us against negative influences of electrical equipment (EMF woo.)
  • Teething necklaces are not meant to be chewed, and should be removed when the child is sleeping or unattended (Wait, the teething necklace isn’t supposed to be chewed? Because it’s a choking hazard. Just say it.)
  • Not suitable for children under 36 months (The majority of children will develop all their primary teeth by the time they are 3 years old, which means the product is not suitable for the age in which a child teethes. Huh.)
  • “WHEN THE JEWELLERY IS NOT BEING WORN, IT MUST BE KEPT OUT OF REACH AND SIGHT OF CHILDREN” (Direct quote. DIRECT QUOTE.)
  • “Please Note: Amber Artisans does not dispense medical advice.” (Third red flag you can see. They cop out of any responsibility to prove their medical claims.)

I’m not a doctor — but here is Dr. John Snyder who calls BS on this woo in his awesome article called “Amber Waves of Woo”. Even Dr. Andrew Weil, a “mainstream” alt-medicine doctor, says there is no scientific evidence and that you shouldn’t do it.

Even if you believe the anecdotal evidence … it’s a choking hazard. Children can inhale the beads, and you don’t put necklaces on babies because they can be strangled. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Pediatric First Aid for Caregivers and Teachers (PedFACTS), they explicitly state, “Do not let children younger than 3 years play with ties, scarves, or boas.” Oh, and here’s the AAP’s article on amber teething necklaces. There is a reason why the amber necklace vendor specifically stated they weren’t suitable for children under 36 months. There’s already been a child death directly related to teething necklaces.

There are other ways you can help a child get through teething that are “natural.” Rubber teething rings, a gentle gum massage, homemade chamomile tea ice pops, a washcloth soaked and then frozen in the freezer. These are all good alternatives.

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Katelyn Sweigart is a recovering woonatic and This Week In Tomorrow’s new regular correspondent for your weekly dose of Monday woo.

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