When your little one is in pain, you’d do anything to make them feel better. Many parents have turned to a remedy that’s commonly used to treat oral pain in adults: topical numbing creams. But the FDA warns that medications containing the numbing agent benzocaine should not be used on babies and toddlers due to potentially deadly side effects.
We asked Anita Moorjani, MD, FAAP, Medical Director at the Florida Hospital Center for Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine to advise on why these numbing ointments are unsafe, as well as how to best handle teething troubles.
What could parents use to help “numb” the pain besides medicines containing benzocaine?
“Rubbing your baby's gums with your finger, giving them a hard teething ring to chew on, or giving them ibuprofen (if above 6 months of age) or acetaminophen are all safe,” says Dr. Moorjani.
“Teething rings can be cooled in the fridge, but should not be frozen, as the extreme cold temperature can damage your baby's gums. If your baby is taking solid foods, giving them cold fruits or other food can also help.”
She explained why topical creams are a bad idea: “Numbing gels like Orajel are not recommended, as they quickly come off the gums. Teething tabs with benzocaine or belladonna and Orajel with benzocaine are also not recommended, as they can potentially numb the back of your baby's throat and cause swallowing problems. Benzocaine can also cause a serious type of anemia.”
Is there a way to tell if my baby’s teething pain is “normal?”
“Signs of teething pain are fussiness, increased drooling, low-grade fevers (less than 101 degrees), mild cold symptoms, and mild loose stools,” said Dr. Moorjani. “But if your baby has higher fevers, vomiting, blood in stools or coughing, this is not from teething. Something else can be going on that your doctor should evaluate.”
How long does the teething period typically last?
“Teething can occur any time a tooth is coming in, usually the first one erupts between 3–7 months of age. Even after this time period, any time a tooth erupts, even in 1–2 year olds, they can experience discomfort that can last for 1–3 days on average.”
Though it may be hard to avoid what feels like a quick fix for your baby’s discomfort, the FDA and our physicians agree that avoiding numbing creams is the safest choice for their health.
You’re never alone through your family’s ups and downs; when you have questions about your baby’s wellness or stages of development, the experts at Florida Hospital for Children can help. To get more information or schedule an appointment, please send us a message or call 855-303-KIDS.