In May 2018, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), announced they notified makers of over-the-counter benzocaine oral products to stop marketing them to treat teething in babies. Many parents may use the OTC product such as Baby Orajel to soothe their baby’s teething. This is not a good idea. They should consult a children’s dental care specialist burnsvillemn instead. However, using teething products with benzocaine can be fatal to a baby.
What is Topical Benzocaine Anesthetic?
Topical benzocaine is a commonly used anesthetic in products that relieve soreness in various medical conditions such as teething and burns. Teething occurs when a baby’s teeth erupt through their gums. Benzocaine oral medication is available in lozenges, gels, sprays and liquids. Benzocaine sprays aren’t currently FDA-approved for some medical conditions such as numbing the mucous membranes in the throat and mouth.
Why is Benzocaine Harmful to Babies?
Benzocaine liquids and gels can cause a rare condition in babies that can be serious or even fatal. The medical condition is called methemoglobinemia. Methemoglobinemia is a medical disorder where the oxygen in the body is severely reduced. Normally, a baby’s red blood cells carry oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. However, when a baby is treated for teething with benzocaine, the oxygen is depleted from their red blood cells because of methemoglobin in the baby’s blood.
What are the Symptoms of Methemoglobinemia in a Baby?
The FDA warns against using any medication that includes benzocaine for children under two years old unless under the supervision and advice of a dentist. A baby suffering from methemoglobinemia will experience one or more of the following symptoms:
•Shortness of breath
•Gray or blue-colored skin, nail beds and lips
•Rapid heart rate
Methemoglobinemia symptoms can develop within minutes of giving benzocaine to a baby. It can also develop the first time the medication is used or after several uses. If a baby has symptoms after a parent uses a benzocaine product for teething, they should seek immediate medical attention.
Methemoglobinemia requires medical treatment and stay in the hospital. Serious cases must be treated as quickly as possible. If not treated or if treatment is delayed, a baby may suffer a permanent injury to their tissues and brain. They may even die because of the lack of oxygen in their blood.
Seek Advice from a Pediatric Dentist about Alternatives
The FDA first warned about the dangers of methemoglobinemia as a result of benzocaine use for teething in 2006. Parents who want to soothe their baby’s teething symptoms have a lot of options. For instance, they can give them a teething ring or cold washcloth to suck on or chew.
Parents can also use their clean finger to rub their baby’s gum and soothe irritation and soreness. Never give your baby aspirin. It can cause a serious illness called Reye’s syndrome that can result in death. Also, contact a dentist prior to using any teething tablets or gels.