The FDA Warns Against Teething Gels – What Can Desperate Parents Do?

The FDA recently issued a warning – teething gels containing benzocaine are dangerous and should not be used for babies.  Benzocaine is a local anesthetic used in many over-the-counter teething gels that parents have used for years.  So what's so bad about these gels?  In young children, benzocaine can cause methemoglobinemia, a blood disorder in which too little oxygen is carried through the bloodstream.  Symptoms can occur after the first use or may appear for the first time after several uses.  According to the FDA, symptoms should be treated right away and include:  

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

Because products containing benzocaine do not currently carry warnings about the risk of methemoglobinemia it is important to always read the labels and not use these products with children under two, who are most susceptible.  However, even older children and adults can develop methemoglobinemia as a result of benzocaine exposure so be sure to discuss the risks of using these products with your doctor and be on the lookout for symptoms of methemoglobinemia if you do use these products.

teething gels

So, what is a desperate parent with a teething baby to do?  Parents shared their best tricks for soothing teething pain without benzocaine. 

As always, be sure to consult your pediatrician before giving your child any over-the-counter or herbal remedy to be sure it is safe for your child – same goes with the bourbon treatment one parent swears by.

  • Cold teethers or any other type of safe teether (silicone, wooden, rubber, etc.).  Experiment to find which kind works best for your baby.
  • Bourbon rubbed on gums in a small amount
  • Camilia teething relief
  • Wet or frozen washcloth 
  • Teething necklace or bracelet
  • Mesh teethers with frozen fruit or ice inside (if you do this I recommend a diaper only because of the mess)
  • For those who are nursing, breastmilk popsicle or pacifier
  • Wink Naturals teething gel, free of harmful ingredients 
  • Advil, Tylenol, Motrin, or other over the counter pain relief
  • Gum massage or chewing on a caregiver's finger  
  • Nursing 
  • Distractions, such as a walk, playtime, or bathtime if your child enjoys baths
  • If baby is old enough, a cold drink in a sippy cup or chilled food 

What is your favorite way to soothe teething pain without teething gel?

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The FDA Warns Against Teething Gels – What Can Desperate Parents Do?

Jamie is a Beltway Insider who loves channeling her pre-motherhood love of traveling into spending time exploring all D.C. has to offer with her brood of two girls and two boys ages 9, 7,5, and a baby. She is a reformed lawyer turned full-time kid wrangler who enjoys photographing her everyday chaos and anything salted caramel. Since life is never dull, she loves writing about the issues and events going on in her life at any given time, including caring for a daughter with special needs and th ... More

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