Q: I've heard that anti-itch creams can be dangerous for kids. Is this true?
A: When used correctly, over-the-counter anti-itch creams are very safe and helpful for a variety of common childhood conditions, such as eczema, bug bites, poison ivy, and sunburn. But you do need to follow the dosing instructions carefully and talk to your pediatrician if you have any questions. Children's skin tends to be more absorbent than an adult's. And because they're smaller, children have a larger ratio of skin surface area to body weight. This means it's fairly easy for them to overdose. Applying too much anti-itch cream can cause burning, peeling, and even a permanent lightening of your child's skin.
And more seriously, some of these creams can be very dangerous if swallowed, especially formulas that contain dibucaine, a powerful anesthetic (it can be life-threatening in a matter of minutes if ingested). Dibucaine is generally found in topical remedies for sunburn, insect bites, minor burns, cuts, scrapes, and scratches. Although the government requires child-resistant tops for all products containing more than 0.5mg of dibucaine, you should still store all ointments and creams under the same lock-and-key as prescription drugs and other medications.