A teething baby is part of a new parent's first 'trial by fire'. There's the hours of crankiness, low-level fevers, constant drooling and the urge to gnaw on everything — even the family dog.
And parents beware: Starting around 6 months old, babies get one new tooth every month for a total of 20 teeth. Teething typically last until 3 years of age.
To make matters worse, teething coincides with constant change in a baby's life that can add to the angst.
Teething is often wrongly blamed for sleep disturbances, decreased appetite, congestion, coughing, vomiting and diarrhea. But these symptoms may signal other potentially grave health conditions, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
In an attempt to soothe teething pain, well-meaning parents, grandparents and caregivers too often want to rub prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) numbing medications on the tot's gums. But health experts agree that some of these medications are potentially harmful to the baby.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning parents not to use a prescription local anesthetic called viscous lidocaine, or any teething products sold OTC containing benzocaine.
“These products are not safe for treating teething in infants or young children, and they have hurt some children who used the products,” the federal health agency said in a statement.
Teething is a normal part of childhood that can be treated without medications, says Ethan Hausman, M.D., a pediatrician and pathologist at FDA. "FDA does not recommend any sort of drug, herbal or homeopathic medication or therapy for teething in children."
In 2014, FDA reviewed 22 cases of serious adverse reactions. These included deaths in infants and young children ranging from 5 months to 3.5 years of age who were given oral viscous lidocaine 2 percent solution for the treatment of mouth pain, including teething and stomatitis, or who had accidental ingestions.
Parents or grandparents may have viscous lidocaine on hand if it has been prescribed to treat another family member for pain relief.