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."
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