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Danger! Lidocaine and Teething Babies

If you’ve ever received a prescription for lidocaine, you might be tempted to try it on your teething baby to ease the pain. Lidocaine solution is sometimes used to reduce...

If you’ve ever received a prescription for lidocaine, you might be tempted to try it on your teething baby to ease the pain. Lidocaine solution is sometimes used to reduce a child’s gag reflex during dental procedures and to treat mouth and throat ulcers.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning to parents about using a lidocaine solution as a pain reliever on babies’ gums, saying it can lead to death and serious injuries in infants and toddlers.

"When too much viscous lidocaine is given to infants and young children or they accidentally swallow too much, it can result in seizures, severe brain injury, and problems with the heart," the statement said.

Overdoses or accidental swallowing have led to infants and children being hospitalized or dying, the FDA said.

While the number is not high, some parents or caregivers have tried it as a gum pain reliever during teething. There have been 22 reports this year of serious complications, including deaths, in children ages 5 months to 3 to 5 years who were given lidocaine or accidently swallowed it.

The agency will require a boxed warning on the label for prescription oral viscous lidocaine 2 percent solution to highlight that it should not be used for teething pain, the FDA said in a statement.

Instead of lidocaine, the FDA urges parents to follow the American Academy of Pediatricians' (AAP) recommendations for treating teething pain. They call for using a teething ring, or gently massaging the child's gums with your finger.

Other products containing benzocaine are sometimes used for oral pain relief. The FDA recommends against using these products for children under 2 years of age except under a physician’s supervision. Like viscous lidocaine, benzocaine is a local anesthetic.

The AAP offers these tips for helping your child through the discomfort of teething.

  • Give her firm objects to chew on—teething rings or hard, unsweetened teething crackers. Frozen teething toys should not be used; extreme cold can injure your baby’s mouth and cause more discomfort.
  • If your baby is clearly uncomfortable, talk to your pediatrician about a possible course of action. Your pediatrician may suggest that you give a small dose of acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).

The first thing a parent wants to do when they see their baby in pain is to find a way to relieve the discomfort. Teething is one of those times that can be trying for everyone involved. Babies can start teething as early as 3 months.

Pain relievers that are used on a baby’s gums aren’t typically very helpful; a teething baby drools so much that the medication is quickly washed away. In addition, pediatricians warn that such medications can numb the back of the throat and interfere with your baby’s ability to swallow.

Rubbing your baby’s gums or providing a safe teething ring can help ease your infant’s pain until those pesky teeth break through and the gums heal.

Sources: Ian Simpson, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/06/26/us-usa-fda-teething-idUSKBN0F129120140626

http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/teething-tooth-care/Pages/Teething-Pain.aspx

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About Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award winning pediatrician and medical editor for www.kidsdr.com.  She is a native of Washington, D.C. who travelled south to attend the University of Texas at Austin and never left.Read More

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