For more than half a century Vegemite has been famous for putting a rose in every cheek, but some modern day parents are claiming the nation’s spread is also capable of soothing sore gums caused by teething.
Several Kidspot-community mums report their pharmacists have advised them to use a smear of the spread on their baby’s gums to help relieve their child’s pain. But experts contacted by Kidspot say, like many teething remedies, the Vegemite cure seems to be an old wives’ tale and one which could be dangerous due the high salt content of the spread.
Tresillian Child and Family Health Nurse Susan Mayall says she would never recommend Vegemite as a treatment for teething and believes babies younger than 12 months should not be consuming the spread at all.
“There is no medical reason why Vegemite would relieve the pain from teething and I’ve never seen it work,” she says. “If it has provided any relief in some babies it might be due to the fact it is creating a different sensation in the baby’s mouth, so taking the focus off the pain.”
“But even if that’s the case we would never recommend bathing the baby’s teeth in a food product, which could create all kinds of problems with tooth decay. Not to mention the high salt content in Vegemite which is potentially dangerous for a baby’s kidneys. We advise against feeding any Vegemite at all to babies under the age of 12 months, even just a scrape on toast, so we definitely wouldn’t want to see parents smearing their child’s gums with it.”
Mothercraft Nurse Beth Barclay, who runs the Sydney-based Mothercraft for Babies agency, agrees putting Vegemite on the gums of young children is not a good idea and is unlikely to help with teething.
“I definitely wouldn’t be advocating the use of Vegemite on young children’s gums due to the high salt content,” she said. “Particularly because it is likely to have little effect beyond helping the parents feel like they are doing something.”
What the experts recommend for teething
Tresillian recommend the use of anything that applies pressure to the gums, particular if it is cold, as the best treatment for teething, with frozen pieces of fruit or chilled teething rings being the most convenient option.
Ms Barclay says the best thing to do for a teething baby is to give them “lots of extra cuddles” until their discomfort subsides.
“Many health professionals don’t even recommend the use of teething gels like Bonjela anymore as they do not believe they provide much help,” she says.
Teething gels have been the focus of some negative attention in recent years after a 2011 Australian study documented the cases of two children who required hospital treatment suffering salicylate intoxication, believed to be caused by the over use of Bonjela.
Salicylate was removed from teething gels in the Britain in 2002 due to the risk of illness if the gels were over used. But the controversial ingredient is still contained in many teething gels in Australia due to the fact the replacement ingredient used in UK gels, lignocaine or lidocaine, is banned for use in teething gels here.
Ms Barclay recommends keeping an eye on your baby’s temperature when they are teething and taking them to the doctor if it gets too high.
“That way the GP can do a proper assessment and see if teething really is the problem, or if there is another issue that requires treatment.”