Teething can be a painful experience for children and parents and it may be get worse as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has advised parents to not use gels containing benzocaine to relieve teething pain. According to the FDA these gels and sprays can cause severe complications.

Benzocaine can be found in over-the-counter medications like Anbesol, Hurricaine, Orajel, Baby Orajel, and Orabase. Apart from teething these gels are used to relieve symptoms of canker sores, toothaches or irritation of mouth and gums.

The FDA has warned parents that benzocaine can cause a rare but deadly condition called methemoglobinemia- where the amount of oxygen carried in the blood is greatly reduced.

Your child could be suffering from methemoglobinemia if the child has pale, gray or blue-colored skin, lips and nail beds and suffers from shortness of breath, headache, confusion or a rapid heart rate.

Symptoms can occur within minutes to a couple of hours and can occur with the first usage of the pain gels or after continued use.

To solve teething pain, the American Academy of Pediatrics says that parents should give teething rings that have been kept in refrigerator or gently massage the child's gums to relieve teething pain instead of these gels.

The agency had first warned about the effects of benzocaine in 2006 and since then has received 29 cases where methoglobinemia occurred due to gels that had benzocaine. The majority of the cases were reported in children less than 2 years of age, according to FDA pharmacist Kellie Taylor.

For adults who have asthma, bronchitis, heart disease or those who smoke the FDA recommends consulting their physicians before using any product that contain benzocaine. These conditions raise the risk of complications related to metheneglobinemia.

The FDA has advised people who use benzocaine containing gels and sprays to:

  • Store them in places that are out of reach for children
  • Not use the gel or spray more than 4 times a day
  • Always check the product labeling to see if it contains benzocaine as an active ingredient.