Benzocaine and Babies: Not a Good Mix
Methemoglobinemia caused by benzocaine may require treatment with medications and admission to a hospital. Serious cases should be treated right away. If left untreated or if treatment is delayed, methemoglobinemia may cause permanent injury to the brain and body tissues, and even death, from the insufficient amount of oxygen in the blood.
Teething: What’s a Parent to Do?
As for the crying baby, what’s a mom or dad to do? The American Academy of Pediatrics offers some alternatives for treating teething pain:
- Give the child a teething ring chilled in the refrigerator.
- Gently rub or massage the child’s gums with your finger.
If these remedies don’t provide relief, contact your health care professional for advice on other treatments.
Adults Can Be Affected Too
Benzocaine products—which are sold as gels, liquids, sprays and lozenges—are also widely used by adults. Doctors and dentists often use sprays containing benzocaine to numb the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat during such procedures as transesophageal echocardiograms, endoscopy, intubation, and feeding tube replacements.
Even though children are more at risk, it’s still a good idea to talk to your health care professional about using benzocaine, especially if you have heart disease; are a smoker; or have breathing problems such as asthma, bronchitis or emphysema. These conditions put you at greater risk for complications relating to methemoglobinemia, says Taylor.
FDA advises consumers to:
- store any products containing benzocaine out of the reach of children.
- use benzocaine gels and liquids sparingly and only when needed. Do not use them more than 4 times a day.
- read the label to see if benzocaine is an active ingredient when buying OTC products. Labels on OTC products containing benzocaine are not currently required to carry warnings about the risk of methemoglobinemia. If you have any concerns, talk to your health care professional before using them.
For more information about topics for your health, visit the FDA Consumer Information Center(http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/default.htm).
Download a PDF of this article
Return to the
Protect Your Health