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FDA Warns Parents About Teething Gels

Katlyn Joy |14, July 2014


No one likes watching their little ones in teething pain, but the Food and Drug Administration issued a new warning Wednesday against the use of numbing agents in children.

The most dire warning comes against an agent called viscous lidocaine, which acts as a local anesthetic and comes in a gel form. This drug is available through prescription only and is commonly used to treat mouth sores in patients receiving chemotherapy. The FDA states that no children should receive the drug except under doctor's supervision and prescription.

According to the FDA, so far in 2014 they have received 22 reports of serious incidents involving young children from overdose of viscous lidocaine. Overdose symptoms include shaking, jitteriness, drowsiness, confusion, vomiting, visual difficulties and seizures.

This has prompted the agency to require a warning on the label of the drug specifically cautioning against its use in children and infants for teething discomfort.

In addition, the FDA is telling parents not to use over the counter teething medications containing the medication benzocaine. This is found in products such as Orajel, Baby Orajel, Hurricaine, Anbesol and Orabase.

The reason is that the drug can cause a serious though rare complication in some people, particularly children under the age of 2, which can be fatal. The complication is a condition called methemoglobinemia. This disorder causes oxygen levels in the blood stream to be decreased.

According to the FDA's Dr. Ethan Hausman, "Teething is a normal phenomenon; all babies teethe," but he adds he "does not recommend any sort of drug, herbal or homeopathic medication or therapy for teething in children."

The FDA recommends massaging a child's swollen or tender gums with your clean fingers, or giving the child a cool washcloth or chilled teething ring to chew on.

Dr. Hari Cheryl Sachs, a pediatrician at the FDA, says, "The cool object acts like a very mild local anesthetic. This is a great relief for children for a short time."

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following for teething pain:

  • Refrigerated teething rings or pacifiers
  • Cooled spoons
  • Wet, cool clean washcloths
  • Frozen bagels or bananas

They say items should be chilled in the frig, never in the freezer, however.

They likewise have warned against the use of over the counter numbing agents and recommend parents talk to the child's pediatrician about appropriate dosage for a acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Teething can cause symptoms such as fussiness, swollen or tender gums, drooling, increased biting, ear rubbing, inability to sleep well, rash on the face, sucking on things, gum rubbing and a mild elevation of temperature.

However, teething should not cause symptoms such as cough or congestion, vomiting, loose stools or diarrhea, or a fever over 100.4 degrees. If your child exhibits these symptoms, he should see a doctor as something else is likely the culprit.

Never rub alcohol on baby's gums either, even though grandma swears by it. You may, however, find some relief in it yourself if baby is excessively fussy. Just kidding! Remember, all babies go through teething discomforts to some extent, and it will pass. If baby is breastfed, she may find some relief in nursing. If baby starts to bite while breastfeeding, just insert your finger into the corner of baby's mouth to break the suction, and utter a firm, and somewhat loud, "No!" You need not be a chew toy.

Related Articles


Ease the Pain of Teething

Signs of Teething & How to Ease The Pain

Is Baby Teething? Signs You Can't Miss

16 Safe Teething Remedies For Your Baby


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