WEDNESDAY, May 23, 2018 (HealthDay News) - Consumers should stop using over-the-counter teething products that contain benzocaine because they pose a serious health threat to infants and young children, USA health officials warned Wednesday. It's also asking companies to stop selling those teething products.
The FDA said that benzocaine can have a rare, but serious side effect on children, and especially those under 2 years old.
Benzocaine is the active ingredient in several over-the-counter teething medications, including Anbesol, Orajel, Cepacol, Chloraseptic, Hurricaine, Orabase, and Topex. For the past decade, the agency has been urging parents not to buy these products for their babies because of the reports of deaths and illnesses associated with the use of these teething gels and creams. That includes using a teething ring or gently massaging a child's gums with a finger to relieve symptoms. The FDA has been warning consumers about these products for years, and now it is taking more serious action.
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Benzocaine is marketed as a pain reliever for babies who are teething. Signs and symptoms of methemoglobinemia (which is a methemoglobin level above 10 percent) include shortness of breath, cyanosis, mental status changes, headache, fatigue, exercise intolerance, dizziness, and loss of hairlines. Babies who experience these problems should get medical attention immediately. At present the package of Baby Orajel says, "Instant relief for teething pain".
The FDA expects manufactures to voluntarily remove their products as soon as possible. However, it did not suggest any over-the-counter teething products that can be used instead of the ones with the benzocaine agent.
"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", said Dr. Lisa Thebner, a New York-based pediatrician. The FDA also previously cautioned parents and caregivers to not give certain homeopathic teething tablets to children and to seek advice from their health care professional for safe alternatives.
Regulators have warned about the dangers of benzocaine in the past, AP said.