Danielle Kapetanovic thought that putting some teething gel on her 15-month-old's gums would help ease her daughter's pain. Someone she knew had recommended she try Baby Orajel, so the Virginia mom gave it a shot. Anything to get some relief when you're in teething hell, right?
Kapetanovic bought the night-time version, which is advertised on the box as "longer lasting" and "extra strength." The directions say to apply a pea-sized amount of gel with a finger or cotton swab, gently spreading it on baby's gums. The mom put less than a pea-sized drop on her finger and did as told.
But everything that came next was terrifying.
"Chloe immediately turned red, started kicking, got one or two screams in, and 10 to 15 seconds after the Orajel touched her gums she became unresponsive. Her eyes locked in a dead stare, she became limp and stopped breathing. She turned blue. I grabbed her and put her against my body, hitting her back trying to wake her up, but no response. I ran her down the hall to my bed and lied [sic] her down and began breathing into her mouth as Mike called 911," Kapetanovic shared on Facebook.
Thankfully, after another 15 to 20 seconds (which, of course, felt like an eternity to the mom), Chloe woke up screaming and crying. EMTs that arrived in an ambulance checked out the toddler and determined she was fine. Kapetanovic also stayed up all night with Chloe, checking up on her and making sure she was still fine.
Chloe was also examined by her pediatrician, who couldn't definitively say if the incident was a reaction to something in the Orajel or some other condition, like having a "breath-holding spell." But the mom is still hoping parents will listen to her story and avoid using teething gels that contain benzocaine, a local anesthetic.
Orajel teething gels, which do contain benzocaine, advises on its packaging and website that the gel is recommended for children 2 years or older. With children under 2, parents are advised to consult a physician or healthcare provider.
"Unfortunately I did not know this in advance, but there are many other parents out there who have experienced the exact same occurrence with their own children when using Baby Orajel. I found online posts dating back to 2008 from parents with literally the same experience," Kapetanovic wrote.
It wasn't until she was researching this that she learned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns against using pain remedies, including benzocaine, which can be found in many over-the-counter products.
It wasn't until she was researching this that she learned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns against using pain remedies, including benzocaine.
"The use of benzocaine gels and liquids for mouth and gum pain can lead to a rare but serious—and sometimes fatal—condition called methemoglobinemia, a disorder in which the amount of oxygen carried through the blood stream is greatly reduced," the FDA reports.
Symptoms can occur within minutes to hours after use, after the first use or even after several uses. Symptoms can include pale, gray- or blue-colored skin, lips and nail beds, shortness of breath, fatigue, confusion, headache, lightheadedness and a rapid heart rate.
The FDA warned about potential dangers of benzocaine in 2006, and since then, there have been 29 reports of benzocaine gel-related cases of methemoglobinemia, 15 of which occurred in children under 2.
"Please, do not give your children Baby Orajel. The potential temporary relief it may provide your baby from teething is simply not worth the risk," Kapetanovic urged. "This product is incredibly misleading (look at the age of the child on the box) and should be properly labeled with a large warning or simply removed from the shelves and not advertised for babies."