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Using Icy Hot, Bengay May Cause Chemical Burns

Sep 14, 2012 | Parker Waichman LLP

The popular topical pain relieving products IcyHot and Bengay have been linked with a risk of a rare chemical burn injury that’s prompted a warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

According to a Bloomberg report this week, the agency issued a warning about the potential for serious burns to develop at the application site of these topical pain relieving products. Bengay and IcyHot are sold in creams, gels, and patches and are designed to provide temporary relief of pain to muscles and joints. Millions of people use these products on a daily basis, and many are unaware of any potential problems they could cause, believing them to be generally safe.

The FDA said it has 43 reports of burns to people who’ve used these two products. Most of those reports involved people using products with menthol and/or methyl salicylate as their Active Ingredients. A few of the reports of serious burns were caused by the application of a product with capsaicin as the Active Ingredient.

 Burns ranged from second- to third-degree injuries. Some of the injuries were severe enough to require hospitalization, according to the FDA’s warning statement issued this week. Overall, the risk of chemical burns from use of these products is rare but consumers should be alert for signs of potential trouble when they apply these pain relievers.

 The agency warned that people who begin suffering pain, blisters, and swelling at the application site of these two products should stop using them immediately to potentially avoid more serious burns. In its public warning this week, the FDA announced, “When applied to the skin, the products produce a local sensation of warmth or coolness; they should not cause pain or skin damage.”

 To avoid potential burns from using these topical pain reliever products, the FDA recommends not using them on damaged or irritated skin. Further, a person should not apply bandages or wraps on areas where they’ve placed these products. 

 The use of heat in addition to these products will increase the risk of suffering a burn, the agency says. People should avoid touching their eyes and mucous membranes when they’re using the pain relievers. Pain, not a warm or cooling sensation, is a telltale sign that an adverse reaction will occur. 

 In addition to Bengay and IcyHot, the FDA identified Capzasin, Flexall, and Mentholatum as other products which may cause serious burn injuries if they’re used improperly. 

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