FDA Cites Dangers To Babies

Reaching for a numbing teething gel is habit for some parents, but the FDA warns that benzocaine for children under two is no longer recommended. Read on to find out why.

Crying and teething baby

Most over-the-counter teething gels contain a drug called benzocaine -- this is what causes the numbing action and can bring relief to a teething baby. The problem, however, is that benzocaine can lead to a rare but very serious condition called methemoglobinemia.

Methemo … what?

Methemoglobinemia is a condition where the amount of oxygen carried by the blood is greatly reduced. In some cases, it can be very serious and sometimes fatal. Warning signs include blue or gray lips, skin or fingernail beds, rapid heart rate, fatigue, shortness of breath, confusion and light-headedness.

If you notice any of these symptoms after giving benzocaine to your baby, don’t hesitate -- call 911.

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

None for the under-two crowd

Babies are big users of benzocaine, as the over-the-counter drug is a common treatment for teething pain. However, the FDA recommends that parents and caregivers use something else for kids under two, as methemoglobinemia is a greater risk in tots of this age.

Even if you don’t keep any in your house, be sure to tell baby’s grandparents and other caregivers.

Other alternatives

This may leave parents scrambling for another teething remedy. A parent’s finger, applied along the sore gums, may provide some relief. Give your baby a teething ring to chew on also -- some can be put in the refrigerator or freezer to numb the gum a bit as well. Some parents will soak a washcloth in water or breast milk and then freeze it for little ones to gnaw on. If your child seems to not respond to these methods, contact your care provider for more help.

More on teething

Ease baby teething pain
Is my baby teething?
Eight signs that your baby might be teething

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