When a baby starts teething, many parents might try soothing gum aches with oral gel – which is an easily-bought, over-the-counter product. Before you try using a medical pain reliever to soothe your little one’s sore gums, it’s important to know what these remedies contain and their side effects.
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) recommended that parents and caregivers not use benzocaine products for children younger than 2 years (except under the advice and supervision of a health care professional). And in case you didn’t know, benzocaine (a type of anesthetic) can be found in oral gels.
The FDA explained that the use of benzocaine gels and liquids for mouth and gum pain can lead to a rare but serious condition called methemoglobinemia – which is a disorder in which the amount of oxygen carried through the blood stream is greatly reduced. In some severe cases, methemoglobinemia can even result in death.
Symptoms of methemoglobinemia can show up minutes or hours after using the product. It includes pale or gray- or blue-colored skin, lips and nail beds; shortness of breath; rapid heart rate; lightheadedness; and confusion. Methemoglobinemia caused by benzocaine may require treatment with medications and admission to a hospital. Serious cases should be treated right away. If left untreated or if treatment is delayed, methemoglobinemia may cause permanent injury to the brain and body tissues, and even death, from the insufficient amount of oxygen in the blood.
That being said, there are plenty of alternatives to treat your baby’s aching gums. For example, you can try rubbing your child’s gums with a clean wet gauze or finger may help with the soreness. Besides that, you can also offer your baby teething toys such as silicone teething rings and wooden teethers.