Health Canada reminded Canadians last year of certain health risks associated with benzocaine products, including a very rare but serious blood condition known as methemoglobinemia that can affect sensitive individuals. The new statements are intended to raise awareness of the risks and promote safe use of benzocaine products.
As with any health product, Canadians are reminded to read and follow instructions carefully for product use, Health Canada officials said.
"If you or your child experience weakness, confusion, headache, difficulty breathing and/or pale, gray or blue colored skin, stop use of the benzocaine product and seek medical attention as these may be symptoms of methemoglobinemia," the statement said. "Speak to a healthcare practitioner if you have questions or concerns about a benzocaine product, particularly before use in a child under age 2."
Products that contain the medicinal ingredient "benzocaine" are used in children and adults to relieve pain due to a variety of conditions -- including teething, sore throats, toothache, canker sores, mouth or gum irritation, itching, hemorrhoids -- and as a first-aid treatment for burns and insect bites. Benzocaine is also used as a desensitizer in sexual enhancement products.
Most benzocaine products are available over the counter in a range of formulations including gels, sprays, swabs, liquids, lotions and lozenges, while a small number require a prescription.