FDA Warns Some Teething Medicines Are Unsafe: Expert Opinion

We’ve all been there with a hysterical baby that can’t be soothed by any amount of rocking, swaddling, swaying, reading, singing, dancing, car rides, or really anything. Then the (exhausted) lightbulb goes off and we realize some (seriously large) baby teeth are making their debut through the little one’s tender gums. Ouch.

Many parents over the years have turned straight to popular oral teething medicines such as Orajel and other products with benzocaine, but according to NBC News, the FDA confirmed Wednesday that giving children medicine with this ingredient can potentially cause harmful side effects including death.

So, what’s the solution for the littles (and you) to make it through teething induced sleepless nights and why has it taken the FDA so long to take action?

We spoke with Nicole Spitalnick, RN, MSN, CPNP who said: “In my professional opinion, it is high time that the FDA is cracking down on teething medication that contains benzocaine. In my 20 years of nursing, I have never been a fan of teething medication as the potential side effects such as Methemoglobinemia have been known for some time. If your body produces too much methemoglobin it can begin to replace your normal hemoglobin which can lead to not enough oxygen getting to your cells which leads to rapid heart rate, low oxygen levels, pale skin and more. Very serious side effects. “

Spitalnick continues, “I like to educate my families upfront prior to the teething phase, typically at the two-month and four-month well child visits, on my hesitancy of using teething medications. There are so many safe tools around the home you can utilize to ease the discomfort of teething. A wet washcloth placed in a Ziplock bag and then in the freezer. A cold teething ring. I’m almost 41 and I’m pretty sure my mother used this on me! A toothbrush – the feel of the hard plastic along with the bristles help to massage the irritated gums. A baby toothbrush you can put on your finger and the infant can gnaw on.”

“Amber necklaces for infants to wear have been utilized quite often, however, I do not promote the necklaces as they pose extreme risk of strangulation and choking. In more recent years, brands have created fashionable teething necklaces for moms to wear from the silicone variety to the silver ring necklaces by Momma’s Jewels. Their necklaces maintain the cold property that soothes a teething infant while still helping mom look put together!”

Teething begins in most babies in the three to six-month range, though it can vary considerably by the child.

Image credit: Tooth Fairy Smiles

Alternative teething product recommendations:

Spitalnick states, “If all else fails, speak with your child’s medical provider about their recommendation for introducing Ibuprofen if the child is over six months of age. A pain reliever and anti-inflammatory may be a good option. During the day infants typically seem pretty happy and tolerate teething well but in the evening when their little bodies are at rest the painful stimuli of their throbbing gums often seems to be overwhelming. This calls for lots of TLC and patience! Just think, when they are about six years old they will start losing those teeth that once kept you and your sweet little one up all night!”

Thank you to Wonder Mom Nicole Spitalnick, RN, MSN, CPNP for providing an expert opinion on this important matter. Nicole is based in the Atlanta, GA metro area with her two sons and husband and has been providing exceptional pediatric care for over 20 years.

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