Your little love feeling the pain of those very first chompers breaking through. You want to do everything you can to make them feel better. Right? And that may involve using a numbing gel on their precious little gums. But now you’re wondering, “Is teething medicine safe for babies?” A new announcement from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cautions parents against using teething creams or gels that contain the ingredient benzocaine to ease their baby’s or toddler’s pain.

This isn’t the first time that the FDA has warned parents about the dangers of benzocaine-containing products. Benzocaine acts as a local anesthetic, numbing the affected area. Even though teething gels and creams with this active ingredient are sold over the counter (some also come with a prescription), the FDA has spent years alerting consumers about the possible complications that benzocaine can cause—especially in infants and toddlers.


Way back in 2006 the FDA warned parents about using benzocaine-containing products after receiving 29 reports of methemoglobinemia (a condition that affects the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream). This serious disorder is rare but can be fatal. Children two and under seem to be particularly at risk of developing the disorder in relation to benzocaine teething products.

In 2011 the FDA repeated their public warning, due to continued use of these products. Now the FDA is calling for manufacturers of benzocaine-containing oral medications to stop marketing the drugs as teething solutions for children two and under and add new labeling (including a warning about methemoglobinemia, a warning for parents/caregivers to not give the product to children under two and contraindications).

Not only is the FDA advocating for these changes, but in their recent statement they noted, “If companies do not comply, we will take action to remove these products from the market.” Now that should make you think twice before slathering numbing gel across your little love’s delicate gums.

—Erica Loop

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