Benzocaine and Babies: FDA Puts a Freeze on OTC Teething Remedies

by Pregnancy.org Staff

Could Your Baby's Teething Gel Be Dangerous?

teethingMaybe, according to safety announcement recently released by both the FDA and Health Canada. Benzocaine, the topical pain reliever used in teething gels, is associated with a rare, but serious condition.

This condition is called methemoglobinemia and results in the amount of oxygen carried through the blood stream being greatly reduced. In the most severe cases, methemoglobinemia can result in death.

According to the FDA, "Methemoglobinemia has been reported with all strengths of benzocaine gels and liquids, including concentrations as low as 7.5%. The cases occurred mainly in children aged two years or younger who were treated with benzocaine gel for teething.

People who develop methemoglobinemia may experience pale, gray or blue colored skin, lips, and nail beds; shortness of breath; fatigue; confusion; headache; lightheadedness; and rapid heart rate. In some cases, symptoms of methemoglobinemia may not always be evident or attributed to the condition. The signs and symptoms usually appear within minutes to hours of applying benzocaine and may occur with the first application of benzocaine or after additional use. If you or your child has any of these symptoms after taking benzocaine, seek medical attention immediately."

The FDA is now recommending benzocaine-containing products not be used on children less than two years of age. Adults who use benzocaine products should talk with their healthcare provider before using and follow all label directions and of course, should always keep these products out of the reach of children.

Help! My Baby is Teething

Removing teething gels and liquids from your parenting kit doesn't mean your baby has to hurt. Here are some "tried and true" tips from the "mommies-of-teethers" trenches:

  • You can place a wet, clean washcloth in your freezer. Your baby will love to chew on it!
  • You can try a silicon-based teether like the "Razzberry."
  • If your baby's old enough, help baby to eat a homemade juice-sicle or sugar-free popsicle.
  • You can freeze bananas or other soft fruits and place them into a mesh feeder. Pull out of the freezer and voila!
  • You can try rubber toys like "Sophie the Giraffe" and see how they work!
  • Your baby can chew on a clean, child-sized toothbrush.
  • You could add a "crib rail teether" to your crib so your wee one isn't mawing on side-rail.
  • Your baby will enjoy the feel of a chilled teething ring right from the refrigerator!
  • Try gently rubbing or massaging your baby's gums with your clean, index finger. Be careful of those new sharp and tiny teeth!
  • You can try using homeopathic tablets to soothe your baby's discomfort.

Experts say that teething biscuits aren't all that great for kids because of how much sugar is in them. But, as a "tried and true method," moms still tend to gravitate toward them. If you're worried about giving your baby too much processed food, but want a reliable and proven technique, you can try this alternative: Make your own whole grain, fruit sweetened bread and bake it up. When all finished cooking, slice the bread into baby-hand sized portions and bake another hour at 150° F. Freeze these "bad boys" before giving them to baby and you'll get the result you're looking for while feeling good about what baby is putting in his or her mouth.

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