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FDA to parents: Avoid homeopathic teething products

Sleepless nights and non-stop crying can make teething a challenging time for babies – and their parents. But while it might be tempting to seek an over-the-counter “natural” treatment claiming to offer some relief, the FDA has some advice: don’t do it.

In a statement issued late last week, the agency warns consumers against using homeopathic teething tablets and gels because they may pose a risk to infants and children.

“Teething can be managed without prescription or over-the-counter remedies,” Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a statement. “We recommend parents and caregivers not give homeopathic teething tablets and gels to children and seek advice from their health care professional for safe alternatives.”

The products are distributed by CVS, Hyland’s, and possibly others, and are sold in retail stores and online.

The FDA is currently investigating reports of adverse events connected to homeopathic tablets and gels that include seizures in infants and children who were given these products. The agency is testing sample products and says it will continue to inform the public as more information becomes available.

The FDA emphasizes that homeopathic teething tablets and gels have not been evaluated or approved for safety or efficacy and the agency is not aware of any proven health benefits of the products.

A 2010 safety alert issued by the agency found that one of the products -- Hyland’s Teething Tablets -- contained inconsistent amounts of belladonna, a substance that can cause serious harm at larger doses. The FDA received reports at that time of serious adverse events in children taking this product that are consistent with belladonna toxicity.

Parents should stop using these products and throw any of them that they own away, the agency advises. If a child experiences seizures, difficulty breathing, lethargy, excessive sleepiness, muscle weakness, skin flushing, constipation, difficulty urinating, or agitation after using homeopathic teething tablets or gels, parents should seek medical care immediately.

Henry Spiller, MS, D.ABAT, director of the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, said that while such instances are rare, even one such report is too many.

“[Teething] is a completely benign, normal process for young children,” he told CBS News. “They don’t like it, but frankly there’s no real risk of letting a child teethe.”

If parents do want to help their children seek relief from the pain, he recommends speaking to their doctor about safe alternatives, such as low doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

“That’s normally very helpful around bedtime or nap time to help with the pain,” he said. “But you’d probably want to talk to their pediatrician to make sure you get the dose right.”

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