Beware of Teething Gels for Babies!

WebMD reported this month about an FDA warning about teething medication, saying that the main ingredient, benzocaine, is linked to a rare but serious disease.  Benzocaine is the main ingredient in over-the-counter liquids and gels used to reduce teething pain in babies and young children.

The warning is about a rare but possibly life-threatening condition called methemoglobinemia, which greatly reduces the amount of oxygen carried through the bloodstream.  Most cases occur in children aged 2 or younger who were treated with teething gel.

The products are used to treat pain caused by teething, canker sores, mouth and gum irritation.  Brand-name liquids and gels that contain Benzocaine include:

  • Anbesol
  • Hurricaine
  • Orajel
  • Baby Orajel
  • Orabase
  • Other store brands
  • Some lozenges and spray solutions, as well

Warning signs and symptoms:

  • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, and nail beds
  • shortness of breath
  • fatigue
  • confusion and lightheaded
  • headache
  • rapid heart rate

These symptoms appear within minutes to hours of using the medication. Children under two years old should NOT be given products containing benzocaine, unless they are under the supervision of a health care professional.  Adults should follow recommendations on the product label, and seek immediate medical attention if symptoms show up. Use sparingly. Store out of reach of children.

Teething Relief

Instead of using teething gels, here are some ideas to give your child some relief, especially if the pain is keeping him/her up at night.

  • Give baby something cold to suck on, such as a chilled teething ring, cold spoon, Popsicle, or other frozen treat
  • Gently rub baby’s gums with a finger
  • Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen– these are both safe and effective pain relievers to help your baby, and you, get some sleep. Click on these for dosing.

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