Health officials advise against meds for teething babies

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There's a warning today from the Food and Drug Administration about using pain medication on babies who are teething.

On average, experts say children get one new tooth a month between the ages of six months and three years. A cry is sometimes an indicator.

But, Dr. Patricia Flanagan with Hasbro Children's Hospital said many babies teethe without even noticing it.

But when parents do notice it, they want to make it better. They may reach for a medicated topical numbing gel.

"I think the overall upshot is babies should probably not have medicine for teething pain," Flanagan said.

Flanagan, the interim pediatrician-in-chief at Hasbro Children's Hospital, said it's gotten to the point where the FDA is taking a stand.

"At the end of June, the FDA came out with a new warning against lidocaine -- 2 percent lidocaine -- which is prescription medicine that's quite often prescribed for babies who are teething but should not be," Flanagan said.

It's not just prescription lidocaine. It's over-the-counter benzocaine, which comes in one strength for adults and another one for babies.

The FDA issued a warning about these products three years ago. The problem is that if these numbing topicals are used inappropriately or too often -- remember the numbing effects last only minutes -- there can be consequences.

"Those children can have seizures, confusion, heart abnormalities and there were several deaths," Flanagan said.

She said parents are better off using natural remedies.

"A cool teething ring or even a washcloth that you put in the refrigerator, not the freezer, but if you can have a cool wash cloth that you dampen and put in the refrigerator, kids can suck on it and it can be a very soothing thing for them," Flanagan said.