Last week, they reissued the warning, citing concerns about parents not recognizing the symptoms of the disorder. These include
- Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips and nail beds
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heart rate
The trouble is with the benzocaine – a local anesthetic used not only in some teething gels but also over-the-counter toothache remedies (e.g., Orajel, Anbesol). As we wrote before,
When such products are applied to the gums, the red blood cells in those tissues undergo hemolysis. That is, they’re destroyed and become methemoglobin – an altered form of hemoglobin that can’t carry oxygen. The iron in the blood is oxidized, like steel left out in the rain. And just as steel rusts, so the blood changes color, taking on a sort of choclatey hue. The tissues often become somewhat mushy.
Certain cells called phagocytes may contribute to the blood destruction by taking up cells that are still healthy. These cells may come from the spleen, where red blood cells go to die, or from the liver.
While young children may be at greater risk, adults are not immune. We often see the same mushy, discolored tissues in older patients who are using benzocaine-based products to deal with tooth pain. (And yes, tissue conditions improve once they stop.) The new FDA warning also notes the risk to adults, especially smokers and those with heart disease, asthma, bronchitis or emphysema.
So what to do?
The FDA recommends that parents should avoid using benzocaine-based teething gels. (Non-benzocaine gels may be used.) Instead, use chilled teething rings or gently massage your child’s gums with a finger to alleviate soreness. Also, there are also a couple of excellent homeopathic remedies that can help: Body Mend and Inflammation, both made by BioEnergetics. Contact our office to learn more about them.
Image by Mr. Mom, via Flickr