What Are the Side Effects of Gripe Water?

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An unhappy baby under a blanket on a couch. (Image: Di_Studio/iStock/Getty Images)

Gripe water has had medicinal uses in treating teething and digestion in babies for over 100 years. Because of a lack of any official studies that evaluate it on a large scale, gripe water is generally accepted as an alternative medicine. The benefits of using gripe water are evident; however, negative influences of the tonic can put susceptible babies at a high risk for side effects. The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine notes that gripe water contains potentially harmful amounts of herbal extracts, sodium bicarbonate and sweetener. These herbal extracts can come from many different plants, including ginger, dill, fennel, and chamomile. Consequently, it is of the utmost importance to consult a doctor before attempting to take or administer any form of gripe water.

Allergies

Some people may find that they are allergic to the herbal extracts found in gripe water formula. Chamomile is a common component of gripe water that can cause an allergic reaction in the form of skin rashes and upset stomach, states The National Institutes for Health. These reactions are amplified in small infants, causing severe allergic reactions that can lead to severe throat swelling and difficulty breathing.

Hormonal Effects

Gripe water can contain extracts from the fennel plant. These compounds have a chemical makeup very similar to estrogen. Consequently, these chemicals can have negative effects on the sexual development of a child’s body. The Journal of Pediatric Surgery reported that, when administered for a prolonged period, these chemicals are capable of causing the premature development of breast tissue. In effect, it is recommended that parents limit the amount of gripe water that is administered to a growing child, especially once these symptoms become noticeable.

Tooth Decay

Gripe water contains high amounts of sweetener in order to improve taste. The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine notes that exposure to these sweeteners in gripe water can increase a person’s risk for developing cavities and other forms of tooth decay.

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