Tearless Teething is a company based in Berkshire in the UK. Through their website they sell bracelets and necklaces made mainly from Hazel wood. As their name would suggest, the bulk of their marketing is aimed at children. Specifically young children who are teething.
Now you, like me, are probably wondering what teething and hazel wood bracelets and necklaces have to do with each other? Well, the tearless teething website makes some claims:
Acidity imbalance in the body is thought to be a main player in certain medical conditions and connected to teething symptoms.
Customers have reported that the Hazelwood products have also shown to be helpful with the general well being of the digestive system and certain skin irritations.
The “main player”? I’m yet to be convinced. Also, “Customers have reported”? Well, that’s always a sound way of ensuring efficacy for your product! Just to be sure I had a scan over the PubMed database for studies conducted into hazel wood and pH levels and found nothing. Not even a single poorly conducted, altmed sponsored study. In fact, I couldn’t find anything that suggests that hazel wood has any beneficial effects for, well, anything medically related. Nada. If you find any data which supports the claims made on this website, let me know and I’ll be sure to look into it.
Then there’s the good ol’ fashioned claim that it’s an old custom, nearly lost to history:
The native Americans were the first to discover that if they were to put hazel wood Chips on their babies’ neck it would soothe teething pains. Almost forgotten Tearless Teething reintroduced this old remedial way to holistic healing in the form of their necklaces and other products to help not only the babies but to take advantage of the natural benefits of the hazel wood, not only for the infants but the whole family.
Ah, so it’s holistic healing? In other words, ‘whole body healing’? That certainly fits in with the claims made. If you compile the list of conditions these hazelwood necklaces and bracelets are supposedly curing, treating and helping from the site and the testimonials on the site, you get a list that looks like this:
reduce symptoms of teething
extremely bad eczema
controlling baby’s temperature
dry, cracked hands
As you can see, hazelwood is certainly good for a whole manor of ills. Things like eczema and teething are repeated many times over, with mention of things like cracked hands and cystitis only being mentioned once a piece.
The claims on the site are fairly vague, but when you include the testimonies on several pages of your site, you have some responsibility for the claims that are made.
There is no evidence to support any of these claims. Despite the enticing post on their Facebook page that:
None has yet appeared on their site, some seven months later.
The FAQ’s page on this site is a thing of wonder for several reasons. Apparently, this “all natural” product has a 2-3 month lifespan and will need replacing after this time. Under the heading “How will I know when my necklace is no longer working?” It reads:
First, you will notice the symptoms returning or you will also see that the extremities of the wood beads have darkened possibly both. This is easy to see. You will then need to get a new necklace because at this stage, the necklace is no longer absorbing acidity. We recommend replacing them. For best results 2-3 months Depending on severity of Symptoms. Sometimes longer.
And there’s another unscientifically tested claim, that the wood absorbs the acid from the skin. I assume that’s what changes the colour of the wood? Your guess is as good as mine! (the person who told me about this site did tell me that that was what they had been lead to believe was the reason for the change in colour). Also, every 2-3 months! That’s a great marketing hook if ever I saw one. What parent doesn’t want the best from their child or children?
These things aren’t Live Blood Analysis (LBA) expensive, but they aren’t free. Prices are around the £15.99 to £16.99 mark, making is somewhere between the £50 – £100′s a year mark on bracelets, depending how often you replace them. I think I bought a hazel wood necklace once for about £2 in Lanzarote, but of course these bracelets and necklaces have holistic properties and are clearly worth more than that.
I mention LBA because that’s another pseudo-science that makes claims regarding body acidity as the reason for people developing things like diabetes and even cancers. I recommend reading some excellent posts on Live Blood Analysis by Josephine Jones.
More than just pseudo-science
So there’s no evidence to support the many claims made by Tearless Teething. The very idea behind the claim that it can reduce or eliminate teething pain just sounds so ridiculous and the lack of evidence supports this. That it draws the toxins from the skin, rebalances the body’s pH level and that this in turn has any effect on pain is ridiculous. In fact, mechanistically, their claim is more plausible if the hazel wood introduces a toxin to the body! A toxin that effected the conductivity of nerve endings. This would have other side effects, you know, like potential paralysis and death but mechanistically it’s more plausible!!
This all said, pseudo and non-scientific claims made by this company are not my biggest worry. While I feel people are being exploited, there appears to be a genuine risk of suffocation with this product. Even more worryingly this risk appears to be two-fold.
Suffocation: Risk 1
If you continue to read the FAQ page you will see the following statement under the heading “It is normal that the wood to peel after a while?”
It’s normal for the wood to peel after a while. It’s a natural factor. We have no control over that. The wood is natural so can vary in colour some lighter and some darker.
Yes. That’s right. The necklaces and bracelets peal. You’ll all be surprised to know that I’m no expert on hazel wood, so I can’t say how big these bits of hazel wood are. But these are being marketed at children from birth. Even a flake a couple of millimetres in length could cause a choking hazard to a child of less than a year old. Remember they are marketing this to parents with children aged zero. Also, just because “we have no control over that” does not absolve the company of their legal obligations towards safety!
If you sell a product that bits fall off of, then I recommend you don’t sell it to children aged zero!
Suffocation: Risk 2
Interesting, the FAQ’s section on the Canadian site that many of the testimonials come from, called “Pure Hazelwood/Pur Noisetier” (French), lists a few details about this that the Tearless Teething site have failed to include:
Parents must supervise children less than 3 years old wearing any necklaces.
Do not allow children to handle or wear the necklace while in a crib, bed or cot.
Now the Tearless Teething site make no mention of removing the items when in bed. The only mention (which i’ll go into later) is to double it up around the ankle if you’re worried. In fact on the “product” page, at the very bottom underneath “product safety” says the following:
Wear the necklace all the time even bath times only remove when swimming. EXCESSIVE removal may result in the weakening of the safety clasp. If you find it nessecary to remove more than twice a week then please replace more regulary than 3 months to preserve the safety of this necklace.
I’ll talk about the safety clasp in a bit, but you’ll note that there is no mention of removing the product when a child is in bed like the Canadian site did. In fact they are actively recommending that you don’t remove the product.
There’s one other point to add in here. The site recommend that you use both the necklace and bracelet. Under the heading “What do you recommend between a necklace and a bracelet?” Is says:
Wearing both necklace and bracelet together will maximize the benefits. And if you chose to remove the necklace for the day, your acidity surplus is still decreasing because of your bracelet.
Now, they are a company and they want to sell as much as possible. But when you remember that recommend that you wear them all the time, (bar swimming), make only passing reference of removing them on children at bed time and that bits naturally fall off the things, this seems to spell a recipe for a real and serious choking hazard.
This is remarkably dangerous! In my view they aren’t just neglecting their own duty of care here, they are recommending that parents do the same. The idea of leaving a necklace and bracelet on a child who is a few weeks old is so potentially dangerous. Yet when you have a company saying you should leave it on, it’s hard to know what to do. When you’ve got a child screaming in pain because of eczema or teething pain, you’ll try a lot of things.
They offer only one piece of safety advice, listed under the heading “Are the baby necklaces safe?”, which is:
The clasp has been specially designed with children’s safety in mind. For example, if the necklace got caught on a blanket’s threads, the loops on the clasp will open. If you are not comfortable with your baby wearing the necklace at night, another option would be to wrap it around baby’s ankle so they are still getting the benefit of the Hazelwood against their skin. However excessive removal may result in the weakening of the safety clasp.
Even here they aren’t saying you should, they’re saying “If your worried, we still recommend you leave something that naturally falls apart in easy reach for your child and don’t forget if you keep worrying it’s going to cost you more because you’re going to have to replace it more often”. I might have paraphrased a little, but I feel I covered the tone of the statement they’re making.
So, what about the safety clasp? This photo from the site appear demonstrate what happens upon the product getting caught or snagged on material.
Now, this is just a small observation. But if its weak enough for a infant to break the clasp open while, say sleeping, then it’s probably going to break fairly easily with general usage. Your kid is going to pull on it, it will happen! This then presents a choking hazard. Alternatively, it doesn’t break under minimal pressure and therefore presents a strangulation hazard. You sort of cant really win when you design something to break as a safety feature.
Bit of a long one, I know. But I wanted to get the points about the unscientific claims and my fears about the choking hazards on the record in one post. I have contacted both Trading Standards (TS) and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) regarding Tearless Teething. I believe the products to be a double header of both dangerous by design and ineffective by current scientific understanding. You just can’t make claims for treatment of ailments without having the evidence to back your claims up and you can’t sell products without either the relevant product safety or warnings in place. Not cool.
I will update when I hear back from TS and the ASA.