Teething is a painful process that is difficult for children and parents alike. Using a gel that goes on a child’s gums seems like an easy solution. However, we are learning more about the potential dangers of these products.
Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning about a dangerous ingredient found in oral teething products. The FDA says that the ingredient benzocaine is too dangerous to use for children under two years, including infants.
Benzocaine can cause a potentially fatal blood disorder called methemoglobinemia. This disorder can decrease the amount of oxygen the blood carries and may result in death. The FDA reviewed 119 cases involving methemoglobinemia from 2009 to 2017, four of which were fatal.
This is not the first time the FDA has issued safety warnings for these products. They also warned the public of them in 2006, 2011 and 2014. Now, however, the FDA says it wants teething gels for young children off the market. The manufacturer of Orajel said it would stop producing its teething gel brands. Meanwhile, the FDA warns other manufacturers that they will take legal action if these companies do not stop making their teething gel products.
What can you do instead of using teething medicine?
The FDA reports that there isn’t much evidence that oral teething medicines do anything to soothe a child who is experiencing teething pain. Any substance rubbed on the gums simply washes away in a few minutes.
They urge parents to give the child a rubber teething ring instead. Or, parents can use a finger to gently massage the child’s gums. Both methods are far safer for the child and will likely be at least as effective as using the gel.