Article at a Glance
• Teething gels can cause a serious, and sometimes fatal, condition that reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood stream.
• Children under the age of two should not use products containing benzocaine unless under the supervision of a pediatrician.
• You can relieve teething pain by massaging your child’s gums with your fingers or giving your child a chilled teething ring.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning parents that the use of teething gels and other over-the-counter products containing benzocaine can result in a rare but serious condition called methemoglobinemia. Methemoglobinemia significantly reduces the amount of oxygen carried through your blood stream. In severe cases it can be fatal.
Products that contain benzocaine include Anbesol, Hurricaine, Orajel, Baby Orajel, Orabase, and related store brands. Benzocaine is also found in products used to alleviate pain from mouth and gum irritation and canker sores.
The FDA advises that products containing benzocaine should not be used on children under the age of two, except under the supervision of a pediatrician. Older children and adults should exercise caution by using benzocaine products sparingly and not applying them more than four times a day. People with asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and heart disease are more likely to suffer complications from methemoglobinemia.
Symptoms of methemoglobinemia can appear a couple minutes to several hours after applying benzocaine and can occur even if you have never had a reaction before. Some of the most common symptoms include:
• Discolored skin, lips, or nail beds
• Shortness of breath
• Rapid heart rate
If you or your child experience any of these symptoms after using benzocaine, contact your doctor immediately.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you help relieve teething pain by massaging your child’s gums with your fingers or by giving your child a chilled teething ring. If this does not help, contact your pediatrician for advice on additional treatments.
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