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FDA Warning: Beware of Teething Medication with Benzocaine

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Teething babyThe ingredient (benzocaine), used in medications that soothe a baby’s teething pain, can cause a rare but serious condition known as methemoglobinemia.  Methemoglobinemia reduces oxygen in the bloodstream,  which can lead to death. 

According to the FDA, which issued a warning in early April, the symptoms of methemoglobinemia include pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, and nail beds; shortness of breath; confusion; headache; lightheadedness; and rapid heart rate.  The condition is caused by gels and liquids containing benzocaine, with concentrations as low as 7.5% and symptoms can appear within minutes or hours of application.

So far, children 2 years and younger have been affected by benzocaine.  The FDA warns against giving children under 2 any medication containing benzocaine, unless directed by a pediatrician.  Naural ways to soothe baby’s pain include giving your child a chilled teething ring or rubbing/massaging  the gums with your fingers, suggests the American Academy of Pediatrics.  Otherwise, seek advice from a healthcare professional.

Name-brand medications that include benzocaine are Baby Orajel, Orajel, Anbesol, Hurricaine, and Orabase.  However, there are still benzocaine-free OTC teething medicines available.  Church & Dwight, the makers of Orajel, have released Baby Orajel Naturals, which contains clove oil instead of benzocaine, alcohol, and dye to relieve teething symptoms.  They are also working with the FDA to determine the best actions for using benzocaine in children under 2 years old.  Boiron has also released a homeopathic teething medicine called Camilia that comes in pre-measured, individual doses and is free of benzocaine, preservatives, flavors, dyes, and sugar/artificial sweeteners.

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