On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration announced that companies that sell over-the-counter teething products containing the chemical benzocaine, a local anesthetic used to help numb pain from sore infant gums, should stop doing so immediately. The FDA is calling for the end of its sale because of a lack of evidence that the product works and finding that, in fact, its use carries with it risks of methemoglobinemia, a condition that results from increased levels of methemoglobin in the blood, reducing the amount of oxygen and potentially causing death. Instead, the FDA suggests parents follow the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation of gently massaging a teething child's gums with a finger to help ease pain. The FDA is requiring companies to stop selling products containing benzocaine to children and to add warning labels to those not aimed at infants.
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