Federal health officials are warning parents about the dangers of teething remedies that contain a popular numbing ingredient. Products containing benzocaine are sold as gels, sprays, ointments, solutions and lozenges under such over-the-counter brand names Anbesol, Baby Orajel, Cepacol, Chloraseptic, Hurricane, Orabase, Orajel and Topex, the FDA said. The FDA has warned companies of legal action if these products are not removed from the market and their sales are not stopped for babies. The agency is also asking manufacturers to add warnings on all oral health products that contain the numbing ingredient.
Regulators have issued multiple warnings about benzocaine but deaths have continued.
Using these products can lead to a serious and sometimes fatal condition where the oxygen-carrying capacity of red blood cells is greatly reduced. Between 2009 and 2017 there have been 119 cases of the rare blood disorder associated with benzocaine including deaths of four babies associated with the use of benzocaine. It's better to give your child a rubber teething ring or a gentle finger massage (frozen toys have been known to also cause oral injuries).
Signs and symptoms of methemoglobinemia include pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, and nail beds; dyspnea; fatigue; confusion; headache; lightheadedness; and tachycardia. The FDA now says: stop right there. "Parents should use a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste to brush baby teeth twice daily as soon as they erupt and a soft, age-appropriate sized toothbrush", the AAPD website stated.
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Now they want these products completely off the market. Anyone with these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately, according to the FDA.
One major manufacturer, Church and Dwight Co.
Teething can be a hard time for infants. I have, for a while, cautioned against topical gels because of the danger, and babies are in the population at the highest risk for harm, and if you look at the risk versus benefit, it's not even all that helpful. The FDA warned consumers about stopping the overuse of the teething products containing benzocaine.
Pharmacists should educate parents to avoid using benzocaine, and other local anesthetics to treat teething pain in infants and children.