Parents should not use products containing benzocaine to relieve teething pain in babies except under the advice and supervision of a healthcare professional, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says.
Benzocaine is a local anesthetic found in over-the-counter products such as Anbesol, Orajel, Baby Orajel, Orabase and Hurricane.
The use of benzocaine gels and liquids to relieve gum and mouth pain can lead to a rare but potentially deadly condition called methemoglobinemia, in which the amount of oxygen carried through the bloodstream is greatly reduced. Children under two years old are at particular risk for the condition, according to the FDA.
The agency first warned about the potential dangers of benzocaine in 2006 and has since received 29 reports of benzocaine gel-related cases of methemoglobinemia. Nineteen of those cases occurred in children, 15 of them under two years of age.
The FDA also noted that parents may have difficulty recognizing the symptoms of methemoglobinemia, which include pale, gray or blue-colored skin, lips and nail beds...shortness of breath...fatigue...confusion...headache...lightheadedness and rapid heart rate.
Symptoms can occur within minutes to hours after benzocaine is applied for the first time or after several uses). Parents should immediately call 911 (or the local emergency number outside the United States) if a child has symptoms of methemoglobinemia, the FDA said.
What To Use Instead
Instead of using benzocaine to ease teething pain, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that parents give a child a teething ring chilled in the refrigerator, or use a finger to gently rub or massage the child's gums.
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