FDA warns about teething gels (2011)

In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning about using Benzocaine, to reduce teething pain in babies up to 2 years of age. Benzocaine is used in Anbesol, Hurricaine, Orajel, Baby Orajel, Orabase, and store brands, which are used to treat teething pain, canker sores, and mouth/gum irritation. Benzocaine is associated with a condition called methemoglobinemia. This condition reduces the amount of oxygen that is carried by the bloodstream and can be life threatening.

The FDA does not recommend giving Benzocaine to children less than two years of age. The American Academy of Pediatrics says to use those chilled teething toys that go in the refrigerator, or gently rubbing the gums with a finger.

When I was a baby, my pediatrician told my mom to not use Orajel because it made the gums tough and made teething more painful. I originally started this post looking for something official that said that. But I found this first.

My baby boy has a tooth that is coming through and he has been a tiny bit more fussy than usual, so I called his pediatrician asking what I could do. She said do NOT use Orajel, but I could take a small amount of ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) on my finger (the infant liquid formula) and rub on his gums, or I could take a thin wash cloth wet it and place it in the freezer or use the chilled teething toys.

I wasn’t planning on using Orajel anyway, but after reading this article on WebMD about the FDA warnings in 2011 I’m pretty well cemented in that decision.

Listen here.

In 2012, the FDA posted this update.

If you are looking for the symptoms of methemoglobinemia they are:

  • pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips and nail beds

  • shortness of breath

  • fatigue

  • confusion

  • headache

  • light-headedness

  • rapid heart rate

These symptoms can show up in minutes to hours with use of a Benzocaine product. Keep in mind that grownups can be affected as well. If you have any products that contain Benzocaine please keep them out of reach of your kids, read the labels, and use them conservatively, and not more than 4 times a day.

If you do use these products with your teething babies, do so under supervision of your child’s pediatrician or doctor.


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