Health Check: FDA says teething babies don't need meds

The Food and Drug Administration is issuing a warning about pain medication used on teething babies. FDA officials are worried about serious side effects, even death.

On average, experts say children get one new tooth a month between the ages of 6 months and 3 years. A cry is sometimes an indicator.

"Teething is a normal process. Babies teethe often without us even noticing it," said Dr. Patricia Flanagan of Hasbro Children's Hospital.

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.

And 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 this: 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.

Flanagan 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.

Parents can also rub or massage baby's gums with a finger to help soothe the teething pain.