What parent isn't familiar with her local grocery store's pharmacy aisle — especially if she's got a teething baby on her hands? From children's Motrin to a variety of other pain relievers, each packaged with their own safety guidelines and side effects, there seems to be a never-ending list of options to help aid our little one's pain. While reaching for a tube of Baby Orajel may sound like the logical thing to do, you could (unknowingly) be putting your child's health at risk, as mom-of-two Danielle Kapetanovic recently learned.
In hopes of easing her sweet 15-month-old baby's sore gums, Kapetanovic decided to purchase an over-the-counter nighttime teething gel with a picture of a baby on the packaging. Little did she know that applying just a "pea-size" amount of the gel to her daughter's gums would cause her daughter, Chloe, to stop breathing. On February 26, Kapetanovic detailed her frightening experience in a Facebook post meant to warn other parents who might be in the same boat.
“Chloe immediately turned red, started kicking, got one or two screams in, and 10-15 seconds after the Orajel touched her gums she became unresponsive,” Kapetanovic wrote. “Her eyes locked in a dead stare, she became limp and stopped breathing. She turned blue.”
Kapetanovic said she began doing CPR on Chloe while her husband called 911.
“Thankfully, she woke up and started screaming and crying after maybe 15-20 seconds in total, which felt like an eternity,” Kapetanovic wrote. “The ambulance arrived and EMTs checked her out and determined she was okay.”
Although little Chloe was ultimately okay, her doctors still aren't sure if what happened to her was a reaction to benzocaine — the active ingredient in Orajel — or a "breath-holding spell." And as Kapetanovic later learned, the Food and Drug Administration advises against using Orajel on children under age two, despite the image of a baby on the packaging.
Is baby Orajel safe?
In 2006, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a warning about the potential dangers of products containing benzocaine — a local anesthetic used in Baby Orajel, Orajel, Orabase, Anbesol, and other topical pain relievers. The warning came after the agency received an upsetting number of benzocaine gel-related cases of methemoglobinemia — a rare but serious condition that reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood stream — 15 of which occurred in children under two. The FDA released yet another warning in April 2011, urging parents to refrain from giving children under two products that contain benzocaine, unless under the advice and supervision of a health care professional.
According to the FDA, danger signs of methemoglobinemia include:
pale, gray, or blue-colored lips, skin, and nail beds
shortness of breath
rapid heart rate
“Symptoms can occur within minutes to hours after benzocaine use,” FDA pharmacist Mary Ghods, R.Ph., said in a statement. “They can occur after using the drug for the first time, as well as after several uses.”
If your baby is experiencing any of these symptoms after using benzocaine, Ghods recommends seeking medical attention immediately by calling 911. If left untreated, methemoglobinemia can lead to permanent injury to the brain and body tissues, and in serious cases, death.