It’s not uncommon to see infants and small children adorned with various types of jewelry. Parents may choose for their child to wear amber necklaces used to help with teething or earrings, bracelets and anklets worn for cultural or aesthetic purposes.
Amber teething necklaces don’t work; any claim that jewelry or gemstones possess some magical pain-fighting power is absolutely false. Beyond that, before outfitting a baby or small child with jewelry of any kind and for any purpose, it’s important to consider whether these items may do more harm than good.
Here are some of the safety concerns associated with baby jewelry:
As you probably already know, babies put everything into their mouths. Bracelets and necklaces can break apart and release tiny gemstones, beads, or spacer beads which children can choke on. While some manufacturers make various promises about the inability of the jewelry to break, there is no guarantee. Earrings also pose a risk for choking as older babies and toddlers can sometimes remove them and put them in their mouths. Children always find a way to surprise you, and it’s not possible to keep your eyes on them at all times. My oldest son managed to eat dog food as a toddler on more than one occasion, so it’s safe to say that they will get into things you don’t intend for them to have. Why put them at risk if you can possibly avoid it?
Necklaces can easily strangle a child while they are asleep. Even if you choose to allow your child to wear a necklace or bracelet while awake, never let them go to sleep with them. Ribbons, strings or tethered pacifier clips all can become dangerous without close parental supervision.
Lead poisoning is a serious condition that can cause irritability, developmental delay, learning disabilities, seizures, fatigue and weight loss among other things. There have been reports such as this one from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of children suffering from lead poisoning due to exposure to lead-containing jewelry. In this particular incident, the child was found to have lead levels in her blood eight times the upper normal limit, and the cause was found to be a “homeopathic hematite magnetic healing bracelet” she wore to help with teething. This bracelet was purchased from a craft show, and although the child only wore it periodically she suffered from lead poisoning as a result.
In the above case, the bracelet was made with magnetic parts, and magnets pose an additional risk beyond choking. Once swallowed, magnets can attract each other within the digestive system which can damage the tissue; in serious cases this can cause a perforation in the bowel or damage the bowel so severely that it can cause death of that tissue. Some magnets cannot pass through the digestive system on their own, but will require urgent surgical intervention to remove them.
Many of these hazards are things parents would have never considered could happen to their child. However, it can happen and it’s important to consider these potential risks before deciding to outfit your child with jewelry.