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FDA demands market remove dangerous baby teething product

Federal health officials are warning parents about the dangers of teething remedies which they say can lead to serious health consequences and sometimes death. Now the FDA is asking manufacturers to stop selling certain products intended for babies and toddlers.

“Could be problematic because of some rare conditions and one of those was methemoglobinemia,” said Dr. Tim Durham, Pediatrician, South Bend Clinic.

Dr. Tim Durham says risks of teething pain gels for babies have been a concern for years because of what the FDA warns the anesthetic inside of them called Benzocaine can do, especially in children two years and younger.

“Briefly it causes a competition with the oxygen on your red blood cells so enough oxygen doesn’t get delivered to the rest of your body and vital organs and then there were some rare cases of babies and young children turning blue and having trouble breathing. If they get too much then, that is numbing medicine and they can numb the tongue, numb the throat, cause problems swallowing,” said Dr. Durham.

The FDA warned about these rare but deadly risks back in 2006, 2011, and 2014, but did not call for their removal from the market… until now.

“I did a quick search online and decided ok there’s some risks, I won’t try that right now I’ll look into it more before I actually commit to buying Orajel and putting it in his mouth,” said Becky Czarnecki.

New mom to 8-month-old Joey, Czarnecki says she saw those warnings and chose alternatives for her now teething son.

“I just use Tylenol or give him something to chew on and I nurse him, breast milk is a pain reliever so,” said Czarnecki.

The FDA says it will take legal action against companies that don't voluntarily remove their products for young children. Czarnecki says it’s not an easy process having to constantly research what’s safe and unsafe but that it’s worth it for her son.

“There are so many warnings about so many baby products that you can make yourself crazy worrying. I think it’s important that we trust our instincts and say ok this is safe or I’m not going to give this a chance because I don’t follow every rule in the book but I do try to be safe like all moms” said Czarnecki.

There were 119 cases of the blood disorder linked to benzocaine between 2009 and 2017, including 4 deaths, according to the FDA.

Other alternatives include cold packs, cold teething rings, and a wash cloth or simply messaging the baby’s gums.

Benzocaine is also used in popular over-the-counter products for toothaches and cold sores in adults, including Orajel and Anbesol and dozens of generic drugstore brands. Products for adults can remain on the market but the FDA wants companies to add new warnings. Manufacturers have 30 days to respond to the government's request.

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