Food and Drug Administration officials said the topical muscle and joint pain relievers available as creams, lotions, ointments and patches contain single or multiple ingredients such as menthol, methyl salicylate or capsaicin.
The pain relievers are used to temporarily relieve minor muscle and joint aches. They are marketed under brand names such as, Bengay, Capzasin, Flexall, Icy Hot and Mentholatum.
"When applied to the skin, the products produce a local sensation of warmth or coolness -- they should not cause pain or skin damage," the FDA said in a statement. "However, there have been rare cases of serious burns following their use. Some of the burns had serious complications requiring hospitalization. In many cases, the burns occurred after only one application of the OTC [over-the-counter] topical muscle and joint pain reliever, with severe burning or blistering occurring within 24 hours of the first application."
The majority of second- and third-degree burns occurred with the use of products containing menthol as the single active ingredient and products containing both menthol and methyl salicylate, in concentrations greater than 3 percent menthol and 10 percent methyl salicylate. Few of the cases reported used a capsaicin-containing product, the FDA said.
Consumers using an over-the-counter topical muscle and joint pain reliever who experience signs of skin injury where the product was applied, such as pain, swelling, or blistering of the skin, should stop using it and seek medical attention immediately, the FDA advised.