The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a consumer update that says benzocaine, used to help soothe sore gums, can lead to a rare but serious (and sometimes fatal) condition called methemoglobinemia.Methemoglobinemia is a condition where the amount of oxygen carried through the bloodstream is greatly reduced. The FDA has warned that children under the age of 2 years old are at particular risk of this condition when benzocaine is used.
Benzocaine is a local anesthetic gel or liquid found in over-the-counter products such as Anbesol, Orajel, and Baby Orajel.
The FSA first warned about methemoglobinemia in 2006. Since then, they have received 29 reports of benzocaine gel-related cases of methemoglobinemia, with 19 of those cases occurring in children. Of those 19 cases, 15 cases occurred in children under 2 years old.
The FDA recommends that benzocaine products not be used for children under 2 years. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends giving children who are teething a chilled teething ring or to gently massage their gums with your finger.