When infants are between 6 months and 3 years of age, they get one new tooth a month on average. When the teething causes crying and discomfort, parents naturally want to soothe the pain and may reach for a medicated topical numbing gel. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), however, is warning against medications in teething children as it could lead to serious injuries and even death.
“At the end of June, the FDA came out with a new warning against lidocaine — 2 percent lidocaine — which is prescription medicine that’s quite often prescribed for babies who are teething but should not be,” said Dr. Patricia Flanagan of Hasbro Children’s Hospital to Turnto10.
The warning applies to both prescription lidocaine and over-the-counter benzocaine. According to the FDA, use of benzocaine can cause methemoglobinemia, a rare but life-threatening condition where the blood does not receive enough oxygen. This is particularly dangerous in children younger than 2 years old. Products that contain benzocaine include Anbesol, Hurricaine, Orajel, Baby Orajel, and Orabase.
“I think the overall upshot is babies should probably not have medicine for teething pain,” said Flanagan. “Those children can have seizures, confusion, heart abnormalities and there were several deaths,”
Medication can also “can make swallowing difficult and can increase the risk of choking
Medication can also “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,” said Michael R. Cohen, RPh, MS, ISMP president in the June warning. Reports of lidocaine overdose were submitted to the ISMP, a nonprofit patient safety organization.
The FDA emphasized that safer alternatives exist to help relieve teething pain. Parent can gently rub or massage the child’s gum with their finger and give them a cool teething ring.
Flanagan echoed these recommendations, stating “A cool teething ring or even a washcloth that you put in the refrigerator, not the freezer, but if you can have a cool wash cloth that you dampen and put in the refrigerator, kids can suck on it and it can be a very soothing thing for them,”