Jun 30, 2014 1:00 AM

Author: Libby Mitchell


Teething can be a horrible time for infants – and their parents. Knowing a child is in pain and listening to them cry makes parents want to try everything and anything to help. They may even reach for an over the counter medication to numb the gums for a short time. However, according to the Food and Drug Administration, that is not a good idea.

In a recent article the FDA writes that gels or topical solutions with viscous lidocaine or benzocaine should not be used by children under the age of two due to risks of overdose, and a rare but serious condition called methemoglobinemia – a condition that reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood stream. Carolyn Sanchez, MD, a pediatrician with University of Utah Health seconds the recommendation. “I agree with the FDA’s announcement about teething medications,” she says, adding “First of all, I think the teething gels don’t work very well.”

So what is a parent to do with a teething child who needs relief? “I like the cool teething toys, cool clothes, and gum massages,” says Sanchez. Also, relief could be as simple as a cold wet wash cloth. Soak it and give it to the teething infant to chew. Make sure it isn’t too cold though – and especially not frozen. Extremely cold items can hurt the gums and make the situation worse. Also, always supervise the baby after giving a teething toy or cloth to avoid choking.

“I also find that the occasional Tylenol/Motrin can be helpful if the previously mentioned methods do not work,” says Sanchez. Unlike topical numbing solutions these medications can provide longer lasting relief, and can be precisely measured to avoid any risk of overdose.

All babies teethe. Most of them don’t do it quietly. Buying a few moments of peace with a topical numbing gel isn’t worth the risks, especially when there are safer, and more effective alternatives.


Libby Mitchell

Libby Mitchell is the Social Media Coordinator for University of Utah Health Care. Follow her on Twitter @UUHCLibby

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