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Methemoglobinemia - A Benzocaine Side Effect

Methemoglobinemia is a blood disorder in which oxygen is not transmitted to tissues in the body.  It is a known side effect of products that contain Benzocaine, including Anbesol, Hurricaine, Orajel, Baby Orajel, and Orabase.

What is Methemoglobinemia?

Methemoglobinemia is a condition where there is a higher than normal level of methemoglobin (metHb) in the blood.  The tissues in the human body receive oxygen from hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying molecules found in red blood cells.  MetHb is an oxidized form of hemoglobin that has an increased affinity for oxygen. With more oxygen trapping metHb in the blood stream, less oxygen is released to the body tissues.  This means the tissues are effectively starved of oxygen, which in its most severe form, can cause death.

Although Methemoglobinemia can be hereditary, the more common form is Acquired Methemoglobinemia. Acquired Methemoglobinemia occurs after exposure to various chemicals and drugs, including anesthetics such as Benzocaine and xylocaine, benzene, certain antibiotics (including dapsone and chloroquine), and nitrates.  Significantly, products containing Benzocaine are sold over-the-counter, without a prescription, and are even marketed for use on infants suffering from teething pain.  As of April 7, 2011, these products contained no warning that their use comes with the risk of Methemoglobinemia.  The Benzocaine products for which Methemoglobinemia can be a side effect include Anbesol, Hurricaine, Orajel, Baby Orajel, Orabase, and store brand equivalents of these products.

Symptoms of Methemoglobinemia

Symptoms of Acquired Methemoglobinemia include the following:
  • Pale, gray or blue colored skin, lips, and nail beds
  • Headache
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Lack of Energy
  • Tachycardia (arrhythmias)
When Methemoglobinemia is caused by Benzocaine products, the symptoms often appear shortly after their use, within minutes or within two hours.  However, Methemoglobinemia symptoms do not always appear after just one use.  They can appear for the first time after multiple prior uses.  In other words, just because you or your child has used a Benzocaine product without incident, don't assume that you or your child will never develop Methemoglobinemia from later uses.  IMPORTANTLY, even though Benzocaine products are sold over-the-counter for use on toddlers with teething pain, they should never be used on children under two years of age unless directed so by a physician.  Although the FDA issued a warning against use by children under two years of age on April 7, 2011, as of that date, the products contained no such warning.

Methemoglobinemia Lawsuits

If you, your child, or a family member developed Acquired Methemoglobinemia after using a product containing Benzocaine, you may have a strong legal claim, especially if this resulted in a death.  The Methemoglobinemia attorneys at DeCarli Law are actively investigating these claims, and will offer a free, no obligation telephone consultation.

IMPORTANT: SAVE THE PRODUCT PACKAGING, UNUSED PRODUCT, AND RECEIPT.  If you or your child developed Methemoglobinemia after using an over-the-counter Benzocaine product, you will have a much stronger claim if you still have the product packaging, the remainder of the product you did not use, and/or a receipt proving you purchased the product.  Please do not discard these items.

If your child has died as a result of Methemoglobinemia, you should be aware that all states impose time limits on when a lawsuit can be filed.  These are called statutes of limitations.  Please do not delay in seeking legal advice, whether it be from our law firm or someone else, since you may lose the right to seek justice for the death of your child.
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Debra DeCarli and Bob DeCarli are licensed by the State Bar of Texas and the State Bar of California.

DeCarli Law represents drug side effects and defective medical devices personal injury clients for claims, lawsuits and settlements in Alabama AL, Alaska AK, Arizona AZ, Arkansas AR, California CA, Colorado CO, Connecticut CT, Delaware DE, Georgia GA, Hawaii HI, Idaho ID, Illinois IL, Kansas KS, Maine ME, Maryland MD, Massachusetts MS, Minnesota MN, Mississippi MS, Montana MT, Nebraska NE, New Hampshire NH, New Jersey NJ, New Mexico NM, New York NY, North Carolina NC, North Dakota ND, Oklahoma OK, Oregon OR, Rhode Island RI, South Carolina SC, South Dakota SD, Tennessee TN, Utah UT, Vermont VT, Virginia VA, Washington WA, Washington D.C, West Virginia WV, Wisconsin WI and Wyoming WY. The attorneys of DeCarli Law are licensed in California and Texas.