Dangers of Using Benzocaine on Your Baby
The emergence of babies’ first teeth can be a frustrating time for both parents and little ones, filled with crying and fussing and lots of late nights for you and baby. It’s during these times that many moms reach for an over the counter pain product, such as Anbesol, Hurricaine, Or Baby Orajel. But in a recent consumer update by the Food and Drug Administration, health professionals warn that babies and benzocaine, an ingredient in many of these topical pain gels and liquids, should not mix.
According to the FDA, the use of benzocaine products to relieve mouth and gum pain can possibly lead to a rare and sometimes fatal condition called methemoglobinemia and and children under the age of 2 seem to be at a significantly higher risk. Methemoglobinemia is a blood disorder in which an abnormal amount of methemoglobin — a form of hemoglobin — is produced and the amount of oxygen carried through the blood stream is greatly reduced which can lead to shock, seizures, and in the most severe cases, death.
The FDA originally began warning people about the potential dangers of benzocaine in 2006 and then repeated their warning in 2011. In the 2011 report, the agency remains particularly concerned by the use of benzocaine on children for teething pain because of the difficulty parents might have in recognizing the signs and symptoms of a reaction. These symptoms may not always be evident and if they are, they may still be misattributed as knowledge of Methemoglobinemia is not common.
Here are some important symptoms to look for:
- pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips and nail beds
- shortness of breath
- rapid heart rate
If you notice any of these symptoms, you should discontinue use of the product and seek medical attention immediately by calling 911.
Even though children are at a higher risk, benzocaine may affect adults as well and should be used with caution, especially if you have heart disease, are a smoker, or have breathing problems such as asthma, emphysema, or bronchitis.
Instead of these benzocaine products, Mayo Clinic recommends soothing your baby’s pain by using a clean finger, moistened gauze pad or damp washcloth to massage your baby’s gums, or by offering them a chilled teething ring to chew on.