Over-the-counter teething products that contain the pain reliever benzocaine are dangerous to your child and should not be used, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned parents this week.
The agency is ordering companies to stop selling these products, and to add warnings on other types of oral-use benzocaine medications stating they not be used for teething pain or given to children under age 2.
Benzocaine can lead to a rare but potentially fatal condition in young children called methemoglobinemia, which greatly reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood, the FDA stated. Signs and symptoms can occur within a few minutes to a couple of hours after using the product, and include pale, gray- or blue-colored skin, lips and nails; shortness of breath; sleepiness; headache; lightheadedness; and a rapid heart rate, the agency said.
Over-the-counter medicines that contain benzocaine include the brand names Anbesol, Baby Orajel, Cepacol, Chloraseptic, Hurricaine, Orabase, Orajel and Topex, as well as store brands and generics, according to the FDA. They’re sold as gels, sprays, ointments, solutions and lozenges. In addition to finding benzocaine in teething products, you might also find it in products marketed for treating sore throats, canker sores, and mouth and gum irritation.
It’s not the first time the FDA has issued warnings about teething products. Last year, the agency told parents not to give children homeopathic teething tablets that contain the ingredient belladonna.
Ironically, tablets and gels aren’t very effective at easing babies’ teething pain anyway, experts agree. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says medication rubbed onto your baby’s gums for teething tends to wash out within a few minutes. Instead, help your teething baby feel better by giving him something firm or cold to chew on, or rub a clean finger softly over his gums.