Teething infants seem miserable. They pull on their ears, sometimes have red cheeks, are irritable and in pain. They chew on everything and sometimes have problems eating. Parents find it very hard to watch this without doing anything to help. Fortunately, you have many options for relieving the pain of teething, including teething tablets. Unfortunately, some teething tablets contain belladonna. Belladonna, also called deadly nightshade, is an herb that is sometimes used in homeopathic medicine but is a dangerous poison. Though the amount in teething tablets is small, it can still cause a reaction.
According to Hyland's, one maker of teething tablets with belladonna in them, it is included to "ease the redness, inflammation and discomfort of the child's gum that often occurs during the teething process." Belladonna can also have a sedating effect.
Belladonna has been grown, and has grown wildly, for centuries. The name for this plant, atropa belladonna, derives from the Greek Atropos, one of the fates who cut the thread of life. The word "belladonna" is Italian, meaning beautiful woman, as the women in Italy used it to dilate their eyes to enlarge the pupils. It has been used for centuries as a homeopathic cure for many ills, including headache, menstrual pain, irritable bowel syndrome, peptic ulcers and motion sickness. None of these uses have been proven to be helped by belladonna alone.
Belladonna has many side effects in therapeutic doses including dry mouth, urinary retention, flushing, papillary dilation, constipation, confusion and delirium. In larger doses belladonna causes vomiting, paralysis, hallucinations, coma and even death.
Even in small doses, belladonna can have nasty side effects. Though the dosage in teething tablets is very small, .0002 mg per tablet, the recommended dosage is two to three tablets four times a day. If given this amount, an infant would ingest .0024 mg per day. This is well below the overdose amount of 600 mg; however; an adult can see side effects well below this level, and an infant has a significantly lower body mass than an adult. There have been reports of adverse side effects in infants using these tablets for teething.
The bottom line is that any amount of belladonna, especially when intended for an infant, is not safe to use. Teething is unpleasant, but there are many options for helping your child get through the pain. Biting biscuits and teething rings relieve the pressure. When all else fails, talk to your pediatrician about using infant acetaminophen or teething gels that are belladonna free. Your infant will be happy and comfortable again in no time, without the possible complications of poison in the teething tablets.