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5 Teething Pain Remedies

Teething pain is no fun for babies (or parents).
Teething pain is no fun for babies (or parents).
iStockphoto/Thinkstock

It's the middle of the night when you're awakened by the familiar sound of your baby crying. You go through the routine of diaper changing, feeding, and cuddling. But there's something different about his cries and no amount of soothing seems to help. What could possibly be wrong? His gums were looking a little puffy the other day, he's been drooling and chewing on his fingers more than usual and he's had a bit of diarrhea, too. A visit to the pediatrician can confirm that it's teething time.

Some babies suffer slowly with each new tooth, while others have them appear seemingly overnight without any problems. Most fall somewhere in-between. All you want to do is make him feel better, but how? There's no one way to remedy teething pain, although everyone has their own personal tried-and-true methods. It's best to have something in mind before the teething starts (usually around six months) so you're not left scrambling. We've classified the different types of teething remedies into a few categories -- hopefully one will bring your baby relief. Let's start off by learning how the freezer can be your baby's friend.

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When little gums are swollen and sore, sucking or chewing on something cold can help relieve the pain. Many parents give their babies a wet washcloth from the refrigerator or even one that's been in the freezer for a few minutes. Some teething rings are designed to go into the fridge to chill before use; sometimes a very cold wooden or plastic spoon does the trick, too.

There are some caveats to using chilled or frozen chewies to relieve teething pain. For one, they warm up quickly. Buy a few of your baby's preferred teething ring so you can always have a cold one at the ready. If you're using a washcloth, keep two, and be prepared for drips. Don't leave a washcloth in the freezer for very long; a stiff, crunchy one could be more painful than helpful. Make sure that you follow the instructions on teething rings, as most of them aren't meant to go into the freezer and will get too hard and cold. Keeping anything that's very cold on baby's gums for a long time can actually harm them.

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If nonedible chilled chewies aren't the answer, you can always try food. Find out why some parents give their babies frozen bagels next.

Chewing on cold carrots might help ease your little guy's pain.
Chewing on cold carrots might help ease your little guy's pain.
BananaStock/BananaStock/Thinkstock

Although he may not feel much like eating when his gums are aching, the little guy can still find relief from foods if they're very cold. If solid foods are a part of his repertoire, try feeding him something soft and soothing like applesauce or yogurt. You could try an ice pop (made from fruit with no sugar added) or frozen yogurt pop. Some parents put formula or breast milk into ice pop molds to create a slushy treat. You might prefer this if you're not ready to give your baby fruit or dairy just yet.

On the other side of the coin, you might try giving baby some cold, hard foods to gnaw upon. Carrots or apple slices from the fridge are all common offerings. Occasionally parents will give frozen foods like bananas, bagels or french fries. Typically large pieces of food are only given to babies who don't yet have any teeth because that means that the likelihood of them able to bite off anything big enough to choke on is low. However, you still need to supervise him very carefully if you decide to give him any of these foods.

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Your baby may not be into chewing on something cold. Next up: lots of other things made for gnawing ... and some that aren't.

Any baby section will have a wide variety of teethers and other teething toys for you to choose from. Aside from the ones designed to be kept in the fridge or freezer, you may find soft or hard rubber or plastic rings, shapes and beads; stuffed animals with plastic hands and feet; or small blankets with rubber attachments for chewing. Some teething surfaces have different, "nubby" textures. Wooden teething toys are on the market as well, but they can be harder to find and more expensive. Your best bet is to buy a few different types to see which one your baby prefers before spending a lot of money.

Babies generally don't make distinctions between which toys were specially designed for their teething needs and those that aren't; some prefer to chew and suck on other toys, books, blankets and more. Don't worry if your baby falls into this category. Just make sure that whatever he's chewing on is safe for him -- toys and books should be say "0+" or "all ages" on the tag, which usually means that they don't have any parts that he can pull off and swallow, or paint that will easily peel off. Try giving him soft plastic "bath books" unless you mind his board books looking like a dog has chewed them.

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If you've tried various teethers without success, read on to see if medicine is the answer.

Some traditional pain relief might be appropriate if your teething baby has a fever.
Some traditional pain relief might be appropriate if your teething baby has a fever.
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If your baby seems to be in serious pain, you may be wondering if medicine will bring him relief. Sometimes babies who are teething also run low-grade fevers (less than 101 degrees Fahrenheit or 38.3 degrees Celsius), so there's nothing wrong with the occasional dose of Tylenol [source: Dr. Sears].

Acetaminophen (such as the brand name Tylenol) is available as "infant drops." Most packages do not contain dosages for children under the age of 2; you'll need to ask your pediatrician how much to give your baby based on his weight. If your child is older than six months you can try ibuprofen infant drops instead (they're not recommended for younger babies). Sometimes they work better than acetaminophen for pain relief -- or you can alternate between the two. Again, discuss proper dosages with your baby's doctor.

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Parents have long used numbing gels containing benzocaine, such as Baby Orajel, for teething pain relief. However, these products have recently come under fire. In May 2011, the FDA issued a warning not to use them without the advice of a doctor because they can cause a serious disorder called methemoglobinemia, which lowers the amount of oxygen in the blood and can be fatal [source: FDA]. They can also numb your baby's throat and cause choking.

If you shy away from traditional meds, check out some alternative remedies on the market next.

If you're hesitant about giving your baby medication, natural remedies could fit the bill. Just note that there's no research to show that most of these products work, and that "natural" doesn't mean risk-free.

Teething tablets, such as Hyland's, are dissolving pills containing herbs such as chamomilla (for irritability) and belladonna (to soothe inflammation). Some parents claim that their babies quickly calm down or fall asleep after taking them. Hyland's also makes a gel containing the same ingredients as its tablets. Orajel and some other companies have natural teething gels made with clove oil, long used as a home remedy for oral pain. You can also buy some of the main ingredients in natural remedies, such as clove oil or chamomilla, at natural foods stores.

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Amber teething necklaces (for wearing, not chewing) are both popular and controversial. Advocates claim that they release a pain reliever called succinic acid when warmed by the baby's skin, although there is no scientific evidence to support this claim. If you do buy one for your baby, make sure he is supervised at all times and that the beads are individually knotted to reduce the risk of choking if the necklace breaks.

Like most parents, you'll probably find yourself using a mixture of different teething pain remedies. Just remember that teething is another difficult stage that will be over soon...to be replaced by something else!

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Sources

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