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Benzocaine Pain Relievers Linked to Methemoglobinemia

When babies are teething and have sore gums, parents may reach for benzocaine-containing anesthetics like Anbesol, Hurricane, and Orajel to soothe the pain. However, benzocaine has recently been linked to methemoglobinemia, a rare but potentially life-threatening disorder in which the amount of oxygen carried through the bloodstream is greatly reduced. Signs and symptoms of benzocaine-induced methemoglobinemia may include fatigue, shortness of breath, confusion, and cyanosis (bluish tint to the skin and lips).

Free Benzocaine Lawsuit Evaluation: If your child or other loved one has been injured by a benzocaine-containing product, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a suit against the manufacturer of the benzocaine product and we can help.

Update: Teething Tablets linked to 10 Children’s Deaths, Hundreds of Injuries

October 13, 2016 – At least 400 adverse event reports — including the deaths of 10 children — have been linked to the use of homeopathic teething tablets, according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). The agency warned caregivers to stop using the products and to take their child to a doctor immediately if he or she experiences problems.

What’s the problem?

Since the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) first warned about the dangers of benzocaine in 2006, the agency has received at least 29 adverse event reports (AERS) of benzocaine-induced methemoglobinemia. Of these, 19 cases occurred in children, and 15 of the 19 occurred in babies under the age of two.

In April 2011, the FDA issued another warning about OTC benzocaine products, which stated that methemoglobinemia caused by teething remedies can be particularly dangerous because parents may have difficulty recognizing telltale symptoms of the disorder. For these reasons, the administration strongly advises parents and caregivers not to use benzocaine pain relievers on children under the age of two, except under the supervision of a healthcare professional.

Signs and symptoms of benzocaine-induced methemoglobinemia may include (but are not limited to):

  • pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips and nail beds
  • shortness of breath
  • fatigue
  • confusion
  • headache
  • light-headedness
  • rapid heart rate

“Symptoms can occur within minutes to hours after benzocaine use,” says FDA pharmacist Mary Ghods, R.Ph. “They can occur after using the drug for the first time, as well as after several uses.”

If your child exhibits any of the signs or symptoms listed above, you should stop using the benzocaine product and contact your healthcare professional immediately. Benzocaine-induced methemoglobinemia may require medical intervention, and serious cases should be treated right away. If left untreated, the disorder may lead to permanent injury to the brain and body tissues, and even death due to the lack of oxygen in the blood.

Instead of using benzocaine-containing topical pain relievers on teething babies, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests the following alternatives:
Give the child a chilled teething ring;
Gently rub or massage baby’s gums with your finger.

If these remedies are ineffective at soothing the pain, contact your healthcare provider to discuss other possible courses of treatment.

In addition to being used in teething products for children, benzocaine is a common ingredient in sprays used to numb the mouth and throat during many routine dental and medical procedures. Even though children are most at risk for developing methemoglobinemia, individuals with the following risk factors should consult their healthcare providers before being treated with a benzocaine-containing product:

  • heart disease;
  • smokers;
  • breathing problems such as asthma, bronchitis or emphysema.

Additionally, the FDA offers the following recommendations when using and handling benzocaine products:

  • store any products containing benzocaine out of the reach of children;
  • use benzocaine gels and liquids sparingly and only when needed. Do not use them more than 4 times a day;
  • read the label to see if benzocaine is an active ingredient when buying OTC products;
  • labels on OTC products containing benzocaine are not currently required to carry warnings about the risk of methemoglobinemia.
  • if you have any concerns, talk to your health care professional before using them.

Do I Have a Benzocaine Lawsuit?

The Product Liability & Defective Drug Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in benzocaine lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new side effects cases in all 50 states.

Free Benzocaine Lawsuit Evaluation: If your child or other loved one has been injured by a benzocaine-containing product, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a benzocaine injury suit and we can help.

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