Treating baby pain with this could lead to dangerous side effects

Treating baby pain with this could lead to dangerous side effects

There is plenty of suffering to go around when infants begin teething. The baby has swollen, tender gums, as well as irritability, mild fever, drooling and an urge to chew. And parents have to deal with the unpleasant consequences of very unhappy offspring.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning parents and caregivers not to seek relief for their kids with numbing over-the-counter (OTC) medications that are rubbed on the gums.

Many of these products – such as Baby Orajel, Anbesol or Orabase – contain benzocaine, a local anesthetic. Benzocaine can numb pain, but it also can lead to a serious, and sometimes fatal, condition called methemoglobinemia, in which red blood cells’ ability to carry oxygen is seriously reduced.

“It’s no fun for anyone when a child is uncomfortable because of teething,” says Dr. Hasan Alzein, a pediatrician on staff at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill. “But, it is very important that parents don’t treat discomfort with something that can have serious, permanent effects.”

Dr. Alzein recommends gently rubbing your child’s gums with your finger to relieve swelling and tenderness. It is alright to give your child a teething ring of firm rubber to chew on, he says, but avoid using a frozen ring, which can injure the gums.

For the crankiness and fever, Dr. Alzein says there is help available, but it’s best to talk with your child’s doctor about options before trying any medications.

“Every baby is different, so it is important to talk with your pediatrician to be sure you are doing things that are helping, not hurting, your child,” he says.

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Nate Llewellyn
Nate Llewellyn

Nate Llewellyn, health enews contributor, is a manager of public affairs at Advocate Medical Group. Nate began his career as a journalist and builds daily on his nearly 20 years of writing experience. He spends most of his free time following his wife to their two sons’ various activities.