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FDA warns against use of teething jewelry

Teething necklaces, bracelets can be strangulation or choking hazard, FDA says

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There's a child safety alert for parents who use teething jewelry to help soothe their child's achy gums. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday issued a warning against the use of teething necklaces and bracelets over choking and strangulation concerns.  

The announcement comes after the FDA said it received reports of death and serious injuries to infants and children caused by the jewelry. According to the agency, one report involved a 7-month-old child who choked on the beads of a wooden teething bracelet while under parental supervision and was taken to the hospital, and another involved an 18-month-old child who was strangled by his amber teething necklace during a nap.

Teething necklaces and bracelets, which can be worn by either an adult or a child, consist of beads that may be made with amber, wood, marble or silicone. In addition to relieving tooth pain, according to the FDA, teething jewelry may also be used by those with autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to provide sensory stimulation or redirect chewing. 

According to the FDA, choking may occur if the jewelry breaks, causing small beads or the whole piece of jewelry to enter a child’s throat or airway, and strangulation may occur if a necklace is wrapped too tightly around a child’s neck or if the necklace catches on an object such as a crib.

Cortney Cronin told News4Jax that one of her 15-month-old son's favorite teething toys is a bracelet, but the FDA's warning has made her second-guess giving it to him. She said she will no longer be giving it to him in the car and, instead, only give it to him when she can keep a constant eye on him. 

"Honestly, of course, I think, as a mom, you are always worried when you listen to these things constantly," Cronin said. "But at some level, you have to use a little bit of discretion."

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To ease discomfort for a teething baby or child, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents try to gently rub or massage the gums with one of their fingers or use teething rings.

Cynthia Dennis, with Safe Kids Northeast Florida, also gave some recommendations of safe alternatives. 

An easy at-home option is to take a washcloth, dampen it a little damp, twist it up and leave it in the freezer for a bit. It will then have a slush-type consistency that can be comforting on a child's sensitive gums.

Dennis recommends a simple, hard rubber ring.

"They have a liquid in them. You can put these in the refrigerator and that adds extra soothing to the teething baby's gums," Dennis said. 

The FDA notes that teething jewelry is different than teething rings, which are made of hard plastic or rubber, and are not worn by an adult or child.

The agency encourages people to report injuries that occur from using teething jewelry by filing a report at 1-800-FDA-1088 or online at MedWatch, the FDA Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting program.