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FDA Warns Against Use of Painkillers in Teething Babies

Jul 1, 2014

When a baby is in pain or discomfort from teething, some parents may be inclined to use a painkiller to bring relief. On Thursday, however, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned against such measures, saying that a lidocaine solution on a teething baby’s gums can lead to serious injuries and even death. The agency is mandating a boxed warning for prescription oral viscous lidocaine 2 percent solution stating that it should not be used for teething pain in children.

According to Reuters, the FDA looked at 22 reports of serious reactions, including deaths, this year in children between the ages of 5 months and 3.5 years; the children were given lidocaine solution and some swallowed it by accident.

A teething baby might show symptoms such as mild irritability, low-level fever, drooling and an urge to chew on something hard, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). To help alleviate the discomfort, parents can gently massage the child’s gums with their finger and give them either a chilled teething rung or a clean, wet, cool washcloth. The child should be supervised while given these objects to make sure they do not choke, the FDA said in a Consumer Update dated June 26, 2014.

Hari Cheryl Sachs, M.D., is a pediatrician at the agency and explained that "The cool object acts like a very mild local anesthetic...This is a great relief for children for a short time."

Reports of viscous lidocaine overdoses in teething babies have been submitted to the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP), a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing medication errors. Children reportedly suffered from symptoms such as jitteriness, confusion, vision problems, vomiting, falling asleep to easily, shaking and seizures. According to ISMP president Michael R. Cohen, RPh, MS says viscous lidocaine in babies "can make swallowing difficult and can increase the risk of choking or breathing in food. It can lead to drug toxicity and affect the heart and nervous system,"

According to the Consumer Update, Cohen says that parents have been known to use viscous lidocaine continuously if their teething baby fusses. There have been reports of parents putting liquid gel forms of the drug in baby’s formula or soaking a pacifier or cloth in in before placing the painkiller-soaked object in the child’s mouth. This can lead to overdose since the amount is not being measures, Cohen says. Because of this, the FDA discourages the use of viscous lidocaine to relief teething pain.

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