Fun Fact Friday – WEEK 165
Amber May Have Pain Relieving Properties!
When it comes to teething babies, all we want to do, as parents, is help them. Unfortunately, as parents, there aren’t many things that we can directly do for them. Today we question some of the things that are available, from administering medications, the use of essential oils and whether or not the use of amber has any benefits.
So far in our teething series, we’ve been looking at the myriad of ways that we’ve been harming our teething children. From opium and cocaine to teething powders of old that contained mercury and the modern ones that don’t contain anything. We started this series looking at when each tooth would arrive and made a downloadable Teeth Arrival Chart for you to download, completely free!
We thought we’d turn the tide this week and look into all the ways you can help your little one – there are loads of them. So many in fact, that we can’t fit them into a single FFF.
This week we’ll take a look at the ones that require parental participation. Such as topical rubs and the subject of this weeks fact, amber. Next week we’ll cover the ones that allow a baby to scratch their own itch – the baby teething tools, so to speak.
Dry the Drool
Most babies get a ramp-up in saliva production at around 4-months-old. But, babies don’t know what to do with all that excess drool, they haven’t learnt to swallow it yet. For the next 20 months or so, dribbling is likely to be an issue. Keeping it wiped up will help lessen skin irritation and take away unnecessary discomfort.
There is a long list of essential oils that can be soothing to fractious babies, whether they are teething or not. The most popular essential oils for teething babies are chamomile, rosehip, vanilla, spearmint and peppermint.
Teething babies bite on anything they can, this is probably because pressure on their gums feels good. You can help by rubbing their gums with a clean finger or cloth.
We’ve covered local anaesthetics and their risks in previous episodes, whilst they are considered relatively safe, they do carry risks and the assumption that teething causes pain – some suggest that teething could actually be painless.
There are teething gels that don’t contain topical anaesthetics, some are homeopathic – see last weeks FFF for how they can’t work – some are herbal and some are full of other chemicals – with clever sounding names – but, with effects that are, as yet, unknown.
Whilst teething may be painless, many parents disagree. Pain is the most reported symptom of teething by parents. As such, many parents aim to treat their babies with pain relieving medicines such as paracetamol (US = acetaminophen) and ibuprofen. The use of either carries risks.
We have covered paracetamol in previous facts. We discovered that its use before the age of one is linked to a huge increase in asthma in childhood. We also found out that fevers don’t always need to be treated and can be a good sign of a healthy immune system. Paracetamol overuse is also associated with severe liver injury.
Paracetamol is incredibly well studied and understood, including its negative effects. Ibuprofen less so.
Ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, commonly known as an NSAID. The downsides to ibuprofen’s use are yet to be fully understood. But, so far, it has been shown to cause bleeding in the stomach and kidney injury with regular dosing. It is also not recommended for those younger than 6-months-old as it’s effectiveness and safety has yet to be established.
When we were looking for teething solutions for our little one, we took the stance that if there was no downside, then we’d give it a go. There were a plethora of baby tools – more on those next week – but very few options when it came to direct parental participation. We only found two items that fitted that criteria and both seemed a little woo – cheek rubs and amber.
Unlike nearly every other remedy, cheek rubs are only applied on the outside of your little one’s cheeks and never within their mouth. With their blend of essential oils and the massage during its application, cheek rubs help to comfort teething babies. The market leaders cheek rub is a blend of Sweet Almond, Olive and Sunflower oils with Arnica, Chamomile, Lavender and Spearmint. And smells lovely!
Much to our surprise, this seemed to help for our little one, he would even point to it when he wanted us to put it on. Whether it was the calming influence of the oils or the massaging of his cheeks – we can’t be sure. It wasn’t too expensive, had no downside and was a winner for all of us. It’s been a winner for many of our clients too.
Amber has a rather fraught association with the term “Hippy Bulls**t”. This isn’t helped by the many explanations of how it works – often talking about radiating, unseen energies or in one case, mild magnetism. Unfortunately, almost every explanation I found could not hold up to rational scrutiny, except one; succinic acid.
Succinic acid is said to be an analgesic – meaning it has pain relieving properties. It is found in some amber, with Baltic amber containing the highest amount of them all.
The explanation that we found most alluring was that succinic acid is water soluble. The theory is that when worn on the skin, sweat would help release the succinic acid from the amber. Then, the now released succinic acid could be readily absorbed through the skin.
The thought is that a constant low-level dose of succinic acid helps alleviate some of the irritation associated with teething. Some note that it takes time to gain this effect and that there may be a lag between putting on the amber and succinic acid levels reaching their optimum. Those time lags seemed to vary from days to weeks.
There’s one thing that is clear, they are theories. There is no clear evidence to the effectiveness of amber and there have been no trials looking into its benefits at constant low-level doses. But, it should be noted that whilst there is the absence of scientific evidence, this is not evidence of its absence.
There are choking issues when it comes to amber necklaces and this is often the most cited grievance towards amber. If it concerns you, then stick to anklets and bracelets. Also, if you choose to use amber because of succinic acid, then you may want to avoid getting your little one’s amber wet.
For us, Amber had no downside, especially since we were only considering anklets. Whether it truly made a difference is hard to say, we’re not impartial or immune to placebo’s effects. The only thing that we did notice, and this could be coincidental, was that there appeared to be a considerable reduction in drooling with the amber, than without it. We should add that there appeared to be a 7 – 10 day lag and we replaced the anklet every 6 months or so, as our little one grew.
Teething is a trying time for many and we’re all looking to help our little ones as much as we can. Unfortunately, there’s not a huge amount we can do as parents, directly, to help our little ones with teething.
Of the few options we do have, some have downsides associated with them, some don’t. Keeping your little one free of drool, massaging their gums and using essential oils is likely to comfort them. Trying cheek rubs could also be beneficial. Is amber nonsense? Quite possibly. But, what have you got to lose – the downsides are small and you’ll end up with some jewellery if nothing else.
The most effective and helpful thing we can do as parents may be to not do anything directly at all. Maybe the best thing we can do is to give them the tools to help themselves. And that’s exactly what we’re going to cover next week. See you then.