Beware of the Dangers of Using Baby Orajel and Other Products Containing Benzocaine and Other Toxins

Teething is one of stages each baby must go through. My child was pretty good going through teething and hardly cried. On the other hand, my sister’s first child was sick with fever and cried all the time. My sister never had a good night’s sleep during the entire teething period.

Most mothers will try many things to soothe their child’s teething discomfort before the teething process is over. Teething rings are a common device to use. They are made of latex and cold enough to sooth the inflamed gums. Some of these teething rings are made with a cancer causing chemical called diisononyl phthalate. Many of these teething rings have been recalled. My sister had a special cloth that she cooled for her son to comfort him.

A tried and true method which has been used for generations is baby Orajel. Like the adult Orajel it contains 20 percent benzocaine which is a drug that will numb the pain of toothache in adults and teething (cutting teeth) in babies.

I used baby Orajel for my baby and I had no problems at all. I also used baby Anbesol as well. Unfortunately, in rare occasions the benzocaine can cause a severe reaction in babies.

In 2008, an email circulated which got a lot of mothers worried. The email was about a mother who applied baby Orajel onto her baby’s gums. Almost instantly the baby took a reaction. He couldn’t move, was lifeless and his face had turned blue. Obviously the parents thought the child was about to die but fortunately, he came out of it and began to cry. This truly is a terrifying experience for any parent to go through.

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The good people at Snopes investigated the story and found it to be true. Furthermore, the FDA issued a warning against the use of liquids and gels applied to the gums for teething and toothaches. The over the counter medications contain benzocaine, a medication which numbs the gums but can numb the throat as well. In rare occasions this drug can cause a serious condition called methemoglobinemia. Methemoglobinemia is a blood disorder in which too much methemoglobin is present in the red blood cells; or there are toxins in the blood. The condition causes a bluish or greyish tinge to the face due to lack of oxygen circulating in the blood. When the oxygen levels are this low death can occur.

According to the FDA, the products for tooth and teething discomfort containing benzocaine are Hurricaine, Anbesol, Orabase, Orajel, Baby Orajel, and other store brands. Also other products used for canker sores, and gum and mouth irritations in the form of sprays and lozenges can also contain benzocaine. The symptoms of methemoglobinemia to be looking out for are:

  • Pale gray or bluish lips, nail beds or skin
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Headaches
  • Confusion

If you or your child experiences any of these symptoms go to the emergency immediately for treatment.

The benzocaine scare has been reported to have caused methemoglobinemia in children under the age of two.

Concerned parents should ask their pediatricians if baby Orajel or other similar products are suitable for their child before using the product.