Posted by Barbara Ransom on June 1, 2011
Just when you thought your newborn had settled into a routine of sleeping through the night (or at least 6 to 8 hours straight), something suddenly starts to wake them again. Most parents are puzzled to suddenly be thrown back into intermittent waking and crying with no identifiable cause. They feed, change, sing and rock their infant without relief. Pacing the floor somewhere around 3 a.m., it suddenly dawns on them: The little one is teething.
Infants generally break their first teeth between 4 and 7 months of age, and the misery it causes can leave them scrambling for relief. Although grandparents may recommend rubbing whiskey on baby’s gums, most parents know better than to resort to alcohol use (at least on the infant). With my older children, I turned to Baby Orajel. With my youngest, I tried more natural methods, including homeopathic Hyland’s Teething Tablets.
But recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Association issued a warning about teething products, including Baby Orajel, that contain benzocaine. Benzocaine is the main ingredient in many over-the-counter gels, liquids, sprays and lozenges used to relieve teething pain. According to the warning, it “is associated with a rare, but serious condition… called methemoglobinemia” which “results in oxygen… in the blood stream being greatly reduced.” Most severely, this can result in death.
Methemoglobinemia occurred mainly in children two years old or younger who were treated with a teething gel. The symptoms occur immediately or within hours of treatment and include “pale, gray or blue-colored skin, lips and nail beds; shortness of breath; fatigue; confusion; headache, light-headedness; and rapid heart rate.” What’s most frightening about these symptoms is that an infant can’t verbally communicate any of them. Visible symptoms may also go undetected once baby’s teething pain is relieved and exhausted parents head back to bed.
Before using a teething medication, please read the ingredients thoroughly as products containing benzocaine are not yet labeled with a warning. If possible, try other methods of relief before turning to these products.
As I used with my youngest child, there are other methods that help relieve teething pain besides over-the-counter medications. Unfortunately, the homeopathic Hyland’s Teething Tablets were recently voluntarily recalled for their inconsistent amounts of belladonna. Overdoses of belladonna can be severe as well.
The most effective alternate methods for us have been rubbing baby’s gums with a clean finger or an infant toothbrush. Refrigerated teething rings work for older babies. Cuddling, foot massages and even an onion poultice in a sock on baby’s foot are all natural cures that work for some families. Overall, patience and time will resolve their teething pain. And soon, your little one will be sleeping through the night again, while you are awake playing tooth fairy in that next tooth stage (yes, they do fall out after all that).