Anyone who has children knows that teething is a normal part of childhood. While it can cause irritability, fussiness, fevers and some pain in a child, it is usually not dangerous and will pass with time. According to a recent study by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), homeopathic remedies should not be used on teething children. Some examples of these homeopathic remedies are, teething tablets, prescription medicines or over-the-counter (OTC) medicines.
The most common active ingredient in OTC pain medicines for oral pain is Benzocaine, which is a local anesthetic. Benzocaine can be found in products such as, Baby Orajel, Anbesol, Chloraseptic, Cepacol, Orabase, Orajel and Topex. These are not good teething products for a baby’s gums because they can wash out of their mouth within minutes. Furthermore, they can be dangerous.
The use of products that contain benzocaine can lead to a serious- and sometimes fatal- condition called methemoglobinemia which is where the oxygen-carrying capacity of red blood cells is greatly diminished. Due to this, the FDA is warning parents to not use any products with benzocaine on their teething children.
What Can be Done For Teething Children
The average age a child starts teething is between 4 to 7 months, and they should have a total of about 20 “baby teeth” by age 3.
Some occasional symptoms of teething often include, mild irritability, a low-level fever, drooling and an urge to chew on hard objects, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Teething often happens during a time of a lot of change in a baby’s life, because of this it is often wrongly blamed for congestion, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea and irregular sleep patterns. The best way to treat sore gums due to teething is naturally, so if your child’s gums are sore and tender these are two things you can do to help alleviate some of the discomfort:
- gently rub or massage their gums with a (clean) finger
- give your child a safe teething ring made of very firm rubber to chew on
As always, watch your child closely when they are chewing on a teething ring in case some pieces break off. Also make sure the teething ring or toy is not frozen, while this may feel good on their gums temporarily it can actually hurt their gums if the object is too hard. Chilled in the refrigerator is acceptable however.
Avoid Teething Medications
When you have a fussy, irritable baby as a parent, grandparent or caregiver you may be tempted to rub teething creams and gels on your baby’s gums to help with pain and to help soothe. However, the FDA strongly advises against rubbing any kind of topical medication, including OTC creams and gels, on your child’s gums, simply because they offer little to no benefit and rarely really assist in helping your child’s gums.
Not Just Children Are at Risk
Adults can actually be affected by methemoglobinemia as well as infants. All too often adults use OTC numbing creams and gels on their teeth and gums as well. Doctors and dentists will use sprays containing benzocaine to numb mucous membranes of the mouth and throat or to suppress the gag reflex during medical and surgical procedures. However, using benzocaine sprays for these practices is not regulated by the FDA.
Always try to read labels and warnings and use caution with OTC medications, especially in small children. Their health and safety is always of importance, as is yours!