The Food and Drug Administration is cautioning parents of teething babies that the use of benzocaine, the main ingredient in over-the-counter (OTC) gels and liquids applied to the gums or mouth to reduce pain, is associated with a rare, but serious condition. This condition is called methemoglobinemia and results in the amount of oxygen carried through the blood stream being greatly reduced. In the most severe cases, methemoglobinemia can result in death.
Benzocaine gels and liquids are sold under different brand names such as Anbesol, Hurricaine, Orajel, Baby Orajel, Orabase, and store brands. Benzocaine is also sold in other forms such as lozenges and spray solutions. These products are used to relieve pain from a variety of conditions, such as teething, canker sores, and irritation of the mouth and gums.
Benzocaine products should not be used on children less than two years of age, except under the advice and supervision of a healthcare professional. Healthcare professionals and consumers are advised to consider the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations for treating teething pain instead of using the benzocaine teething products:
- Give the child a teething ring chilled in the refrigerator.
- Gently rub or massage the child’s gums with your finger to relieve the symptoms of teething in children.
If these methods don’t provide relief from teething pain, you should talk to your doctor to identify other treatments.