FDA Issues Warning About Teething Gels

The numbing agent in a number of gels designed to ease the pain of teething can be dangerous or even fatal to babies, the Food and Drug Administration has announced.  CNN.com has more:

Benzocaine is a local anesthetic that’s in products like Anbesol, Orajel & Baby Orajel, Orabase and Hurricaine. The FDA says using benzocaine products to stop mouth and gum pain can cause a rare and sometimes fatal condition called methemoglobinemia. Methemoglobinemia is a blood disorder where the oxygen that’s carried through the blood to the tissue drops to dangerously low levels. In severe cases it can cause death.

The FDA first sounded the alarm on these products in 2006. Since then there have been 29 reports of benzocaine gel-related cases of methemoglobinemia. FDA pharmacist Kellie Taylor says 19 of those cases were in children, 15 of those 19 were children under the age of 2.

The agency issued another warning in 2011. Some of the symptoms to look for include pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips and fingernail beds, shortness of breath, headache, light-headedness and rapid heart rate.

“Symptoms can occur within minutes to hours after benozcaine use,” says FDA Pharmacist Mary Ghods said. “They can occur after using the drug for the first time, as well as after several uses.”

Image: Teething baby, via Shutterstock.

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  1. by TheThinker1958

    On June 4, 2012 at 11:18 am

    I guess the Republicans after reading these news will cut the FDA budget even more. Without the FDA nobody will worried about their kids anymore.

  2. by Julie

    On June 4, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Really?!? Why does something like this really need to be turned into something political. It’s a warning…not about what the republicans OR the democrats are doing wrong!

  3. by Dana

    On June 4, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    I can’t believe these teething gels are still sold in stores. Why does the FDA just give a warning, and not ban these products?

  4. by Jane Peters

    On June 4, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    The FDA doesn’t ban these teething gels because they’re making money for business. And they believe that’s more important than a baby’s health.

  5. by TheThinker1957

    On June 4, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    TheThinker1958, you’re a nut!

  6. by Ildi

    On June 4, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    I always said that nobody should use those gels.. we should all try and avoid chemicals when it comes to our kids.

  7. by kalee

    On June 4, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    So what would y’all recommend for teething? My daughter is 10mo and jasnt started teething yet but I wanna be prepared! Any suggestions!?


  8. by Some One Out There

    On June 4, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Kalee, use a frozen wash rag, teething ring, ice, pop cicles, teething cookies, teething toys, and there are tons of remedies out there! Google for more…

  9. by klb79

    On June 5, 2012 at 9:14 am

    I use the Baby Orajel Naturals with my little guy. It seems to work and it doesn’t have the Benzocaine in it. It has a funky smell though, kind of like black licorish.

  10. by Miranda Rasmussen

    On June 5, 2012 at 9:46 am

    Oh how scary! Back to Hyland’s gel & teething tabs. Benzocaine anything is off the list; thanks for the heads-up.

  11. by Meaghan

    On June 5, 2012 at 9:51 am

    Oh good, one more thing that may kill my child to worry about. Because there weren’t enough already! Where’s that bubble… SMH.

  12. by alexis

    On June 5, 2012 at 9:58 am

    Well i dont believ Hylands is all that much safer. My son had an allergic reaction. just shows you that even ‘natural’ products can be harmful too.

  13. by Ashley

    On June 5, 2012 at 10:02 am

    I have used Hyland’s teething tablets for both my kids. I recently read that you shouldn’t use them, but the article couldn’t give justification for not using them. They would well and are all natural. If they are used in the appropriate dose, then they are safe. I use them in conjunction with Tylenol when the pain gets really bad. When they are awake, I use teething rings, teething biscuits, cold carrots, and the like. There are so many more options than gels. I never trusted the gels. I mean, with all the drool, most of it washes out rather quickly. I think that’s where the problem comes because some parents just keep reapplying, and then there are problems.

    By the way…how did this turn political? Seriously. The statement was so ridiculous.

  14. by Melanie

    On June 5, 2012 at 10:11 am

    Thank god I followed my gut instinct and that was to go the all natural and organic was as much as humanly possible. I rarely used any teething gels, the only one I used a couple of times was the hylands all natural teething gel but mostly I just used the dissolving teething tablets which worked wonders. No one should be giving chemicals to babies. I wouldnt even use anything that was Johnson and Johnson because of whats in it, I used all organic and natural lotions/soaps. Its scary that almost all our food products are made with chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, and have pesticides on them. On top of all that the products we use everyday are loaded with harmful chemicals as well. I found a good app on my cell phone called Fooducate which lets you know what harmful stuff is in each product and what is a better alternative to eat. http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ is a really good site to go to that will let you know what products have the less amount of harmful ingredients in them. I check out all the products im thinking about getting to use on my son before purchasing them. For example, sunblock, lotion, shampoo, conditioner, wipes, body wash, and bubble bath.

  15. by Brookfield Mom

    On June 5, 2012 at 10:14 am

    The natural gels do not contain benzo. Hyland’s and Orajel Naturals. However, they don’t last nearly as long. Hyland’s suggests application up to 4 times and hour, so beware. Honestly, if you want the safe, proven method that doesn’t require you sticking your finger in your kid’s mouth every 15 minutes (not pleasant for anyone), then just give her tylenol or motrin (get proper dosage from your pediatrician).

  16. by stopbeingpolitical

    On June 5, 2012 at 10:15 am

    To: thethinker1958….are you serious? You really turned this into a political debate? This information has been around for years. What in the world does your political party have to do with this topic. You’re so far from a “thinker” you should change your name to “thesheeple” because apparently you simply word vomit your opinions without any actual thought. I have an idea, go educate yourself on gel ingredients and then use your words to form an educated opinion. Grow up! You’re a disgrace to any political party, but thank you for showing everyone the ignorance of the democratic party. Excellent job. Bravo!

  17. by Brenda

    On June 5, 2012 at 10:26 am

    #1 its RARE!! 19 babies out of how many? Cripes. The ones up in arms about it are probably the same ones who shelter their children from everything so they grow up out of control b/c theyve never experienced anything. Every medication comes w/risks so you just gonna not treat your child w/any medication? Read the fine print on any number of meds and even childrens meds. You gonna not give your child tylenol or motrin when they have a fever? They have risks too. #2 for you all natural people it doesnt always work. And the HYLANDS Teething tablets have also been recalled before. So

  18. by Gee

    On June 5, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Hyland’s teething tablets aren’t any better. Yes, they are homeopathic, but all that means is they come from natural ingredients and not chemicals. Those tablets contain belladonna, which is a known toxin in a high enough quantity. Google it for yourself. And the reason it works is mainly due to the fact that it’s a mild sedative. Stick to a little motrin (in correct amounts) for the inflammation and cold cloths and teething toys.

  19. by Gee

    On June 5, 2012 at 10:33 am

    And for all those that think anything natural must be better, remember this: cocaine, anthrax, arsenic and marijuana are all natural. Just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean it’s safe.

  20. by Jane

    On June 5, 2012 at 10:39 am

    When my son was born [10yrs ago] I ask my dentist what would be good for teething. He suggested the teething tablets which are all natural. My dentist also told me that the teething gel made it harder for the teeth to break the gums because it made the gums tough. He also suggested rubbing motrin on his gums.

  21. by Mae

    On June 5, 2012 at 10:59 am

    VERY good point Gee. My LO isn’t teething yet but I’m sure it’s not far off. I’ll talk it over with DH and we’ll figure out the best options, depending on how bad the pain is for him. I want my son to be safe but I’m not trying to shelter him from life. Too much sheltering can lead to so many more problems in the long run.

  22. by D

    On June 5, 2012 at 11:16 am

    I use a baltic amber teething necklace. Works great, too! You can find them on etsy. They make them so the beads are small and tied between each bead. That way if the necklace breaks only one bead will fall off and the bead is small enough that a baby can’t choke on it. The amber gets warm from the baby’s body heat and has a medicianal, calming ability to take away pain. I didn’t have one for my first baby and I can tell a huge difference between my 2 boys and teething pain.

  23. by Steffeni

    On June 5, 2012 at 11:18 am

    Thanks for the article. I was unaware there were any problems with teething gels. I am so busy being with my kids that I dont have time to research things like this.

  24. by Ginger

    On June 5, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    I appreciate the warning but come on. I think some people here are over reacting. Pull them all? People can have reactions to any element that exists. Lots of people have reactions to lots of things. You just have to be careful. You can’t predict if your child is going to be allergic to something unfortunately.

  25. by Rina's mom

    On June 5, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    Great another thing to worry about. Thank God this problem is rare. I started using Hyland’s gel, but my I stopped using it because it contains Belladonna, which is poison! It contains very little, but it freaked me out. Not all natural products are safe, unfortunately. I guess at the end of the day we have to be grateful our baby made it through the day.

  26. by reallyfolks

    On June 5, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    If we stop using everything that has a very small chance of side effects, stop doing something or don’t go anywhere that has a very small chance of hurting you, what would this world be? Our parents didn’t have any of this crap to tell them 1 of 5 million have ‘x’ and look how everyone turned out. It’s all part of life. It’s all about moderation. Don’t give them the bottle, give them the drop. It’s not rocket science. And all natural is NEVER all natural. You can’t be that naive.

  27. by vanessa sterling

    On June 5, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    What about teething gels that are lidocaine based instead of the dangerous benzocaine mentioned above?

  28. by Shay

    On June 5, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    Parents.com, you are the best!

  29. by Wendy

    On June 5, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    To KALEE
    Use ice, children love it! Or fruit smoothies, cold fruits like a papaya, strawberries, just put in the fridge, serve cold in little pieces, it’s going to numb children’s gums and is going to calm mild pain and itchy sensation on them, is healthy, cheaper and helpfull.

  30. by Dadtoanother

    On June 5, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    So 29 cases out of how many? Millions? Better not go out side you might get struck by lightning while shark attacks you in a desert where you struck gold. FDA thank you for spending about a billion dollars and wasting my time. Also don’t give your kids any food or water, they could choke and die and you are an idiot.

  31. by maritza

    On June 5, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    Seriously?? Then why the eff are these things still being sold in stores?!!

  32. by TERRIE

    On June 5, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    Oh my. I can’t believe it yet one more thing for parents to watch out for. We just won’t buy anymore. Glad we are informed.

  33. by Tom

    On June 6, 2012 at 7:07 am

    It is best to be informed to the possible dangers. We used a frozen damp wash cloth and it numbs the whole face as they chew in it to get those teeth into place. I also massaged their gums with my thumb and they get used to letting you help. Be loving and the rewards will come with their love. Father of 5

  34. by g1nge

    On June 6, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    THANK YOU, Brenda & Gee!!!

    Agree that not everything natural is safe! LOL @ the drug references.


    IDK . . . everything in moderation, right?

  35. by Sam

    On June 6, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    All of this, “ugh only this many cases, no big deal..” seriously aggravates me! How would you all feel if you knowingly still gave this product to your child and they indeed end up getting this incurable blood disorder? “Take the risk”…? This world never ceases to amaze me!

    Thank you, parents.com for the heads up!

  36. by Belinda

    On June 7, 2012 at 7:08 am

    I using teething gel still. Main reason? Because I don’t use but maybe once a month. I was lucky, out of ALL three girls not ONE was fussy due to teething!

  37. by Kristin

    On June 7, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    tap water has enough flouride in it for brushing baby’s gums.

  38. by Ursula

    On June 7, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    We use Hylands teething gel or tabs. Its all natural and works great! no numbing agents or chemicals at all…

  39. by Jeannie

    On June 9, 2012 at 12:28 am

    Use orajel naturals tabs, teething pacifiers, etc. but I believe cold bottles are the best since my little guy likes formula out of the fridge.

  40. by Jayden'smommy

    On June 16, 2012 at 7:37 am

    I agree, products that say they’re natural, usually never are. And everything that’s natural, isn’t always safe. I never used anything for my daughter though. I believe its always best to use home remedies if at all possible. I did the frozen rag thing. I only gave her tylenol once when it got so bad she couldn’t sleep.

  41. [...] be placing their children in danger by using gels on their teething babies, according to theFood and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA warns that an ingredient in some teething gels is dangerous to babies, and may even [...]

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  50. [...] years ago, the FDA warned against gum-numbing medications containing benzocaine, an ingredient usually contained in over-the-counter products such as Orajel, Baby Orajel, Orabase, [...]

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