FDA warns teething medicines unsafe, wants them off shelves

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

WASHINGTON — Federal health officials warned parents Wednesday about the dangers of teething remedies that contain a popular numbing ingredient and asked manufacturers to stop selling their products intended for babies and toddlers.

The Food and Drug Administration said various gels and creams containing the drug benzocaine can cause rare but deadly side effects in children, especially those 2 years and younger.

The agency has been warning about the products for a decade but said reports of illnesses and deaths have continued.

Now, it wants teething products off the market, noting there is little evidence they actually work.

“We urge parents, caregivers and retailers who sell them to heed our warnings and not use over-the-counter products containing benzocaine for teething pain,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.

The FDA said it will take legal action against companies that don’t voluntarily remove their products for young children.

Benzocaine is also used in popular over-the-counter products for toothaches and cold sores in adults, including Orajel and Anbesol and dozens of generic drugstore brands.

Products for adults can remain on the market, but the FDA wants companies to add new warnings. Manufacturers have 30 days to respond to the government’s request.

Benzocaine can cause a rare blood condition linked to potentially deadly breathing problems.

The pain-relieving ingredient can interfere with an oxygen-carrying protein in the blood. Symptoms include shortness of breath, headache and rapid heart rate.

Teething products with benzocaine include Baby Orajel. The packaging states: “Instant relief for teething pain.”

It is made by the New Jersey-based Church and Dwight Co. Inc.; a company representative could not be immediately reached for comment.

The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend teething creams because they usually wash out of the baby’s mouth within minutes.

Instead, the group recommends giving babies teething rings or simply massaging their gums to relieve pain.

The FDA issued warnings about the teething products in 2006, 2011 and 2014, but did not call for their removal from the market.

Officials reviewed 119 cases of the blood disorder linked to benzocaine between 2009 and 2017, including four deaths, according to the FDA.

AlertMe
Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.