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Benzocaine is a pain reliever that is used locally. It’s sold under the brand names Anbesol, Hurricaine, Orajel, Baby Orajel, and Orabase in most drugstores. Benzocaine has been linked to methemoglobinemia, a rare but serious—and occasionally fatal—condition in which the amount of oxygen delivered through the bloodstream is drastically reduced.

Because of this link, the FDA advises parents and caregivers not to use benzocaine medications on children under the age of 2 unless under the guidance and supervision of a health care expert.

Methemoglobinemia symptoms can appear minutes to hours after intake and include:

  • Skin, lips, and nail beds that are pale, grey, or blue in color
  • weariness
  • shortness of breath
  • confusion
  • headache
  • light-headedness
  • a fast heart rate

If you suspect your child has methemoglobinemia, transport him or her to the emergency department right away. Methemoglobinemia, if left untreated or treated late, can result in permanent damage to the brain and body tissues, as well as death, due to a lack of oxygen in the blood.

If your kid is teething, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using a teething ring that has been refrigerated in the refrigerator to soothe his or her mouth. You can also use your finger to softly rub or massage the gums. Visit the FDA’s benzocaine consumer page for more information.

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