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Benzocaine and Babies

By Jill Feilmeier on February 7, 2013 in Kid's Health

Mother taking her kids on a walk

Teething… your baby's miserable and so are you. It's tempting to reach for a pain remedy for your child's sore gums. But if your child is under 2 years old, think twice and do your research before easing their pain with Benzocaine.

Benzocaine, an anesthetic gel or liquid that can be found in over-the-counter pain remedy products, can lead to a rare, but serious and sometimes fatal condition, called methemoglobinemia, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Methemoglobinemia is a disorder in which the amount of oxygen carried through the bloodstream is greatly reduced and can result in death. Children under age two are particularly at risk, according to the FDA.

Benzocaine is found in such products as Anbesol, Hurricaine, Orajel, Baby Orajel and Orabase. The FDA first warned about the potential dangers in 2006, and has repeated the warning because parents may not recognize the signs of methemoglobinemia. For that reason, the FDA recommends that parents and caregivers avoid using Benzocaine products for children under age two. Signs and symptoms of the condition include:

  • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips and nail beds.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Fatigue.
  • Confusion.
  • Headache.
  • Light-headedness.
  • Rapid heart rate.

If your child has any of these symptoms after using Benzocaine, stop using the product and immediately call 911.

As an alternative for your crying baby, the American Academy of Pediatrics offers these alternatives to treating teething pain:

  • Give your child a teething ring chilled in the refrigerator.
  • Gently rub or massage your child's gums with your finger.

If you are concerned with your child's teething pain, talk to your dentist. He or she will surely have ideas that will help you and your baby.