If teething gels are dangerous, how can I relieve my baby’s teething pain?

Is your baby teething? Dr. Dina Kulik says to avoid teething gels and suggests safer alternatives for pain relief.

If teething gels are dangerous, how can I relieve my baby’s teething pain?

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I’ve heard I shouldn’t use teething gels. What else can I give my baby for the pain?

You’re right: Teething gels, which contain the topical anesthetic benzocaine, shouldn’t be used. These products can cause a rare and sometimes fatal condition called methemoglobinemia, a disorder in which the oxygen that’s carried through the blood to the tissues drops to dangerously low levels. In severe cases, it can cause death. And when you place numbing gel on the gums, babies will inevitably swallow some, which can numb their throats and create a risk of choking.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises parents not to use benzocaine teething gels on children younger than two, except under doctor supervision. Health Canada recommends caution when using them on children and advises talking to a healthcare practitioner before using them on kids under two. I suggest children and adults of all ages avoid them.

Instead, I prefer to give children liquid ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) every six to eight hours as needed. Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory and therefore helps reduce the pain caused by inflammation of the gums during teething. Please check the best dose with your doctor, as it is based on your child’s current weight.

Teething pain is usually worse at night, so giving your child ibuprofen before bed can help. Within a few days, your child will likely experience less pain and you can stop using the meds.

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