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Pediatric Exposures to Topical Benzocaine Preparations Reported to a Statewide Poison Control System.

INTRODUCTION: Topical benzocaine is a local anesthetic commonly used to relieve pain caused by teething, periodontal irritation, burns, wounds, and insect bites. Oral preparations may contain benzocaine concentrations ranging from 7.5% to 20%. Pediatric exposure to such large concentrations may result in methemoglobinemia and secondarily cause anemia, cyanosis, and hypoxia.

METHODS: This is a retrospective study of exposures reported to a statewide poison control system. The electronic health records were queried for pediatric exposures to topical benzocaine treated at a healthcare facility from 2004 to 2014. Cases of benzocaine exposure were reviewed for demographic and clinical information, and descriptive statistical analysis was performed.

RESULTS: The query resulted in 157 cases; 58 were excluded due to co-ingestants, or miscoding of non-benzocaine exposures. Children four years of age and younger represented the majority of cases (93%) with a median age of 1 year. There were 88 cases of accidental/ exploratory exposure, while 6 cases resulted from therapeutic application or error, 4 cases from adverse reactions, and 1 case from an unknown cause. Asymptomatic children accounted for 75.5% of cases, but major clinical effects were observed in 5 patients. Those with serious effects were exposed to a range of benzocaine concentrations (7.5-20%), with 4 cases reporting methemoglobin levels between 20.2%-55%. Methylene blue was administered in 4 of the cases exhibiting major effects.

CONCLUSION: The majority of exposures were accidental ingestions by young children. Most exposures resulted in minor to no effects. However, some patients required treatment with methylene blue and admission to a critical care unit. Therapeutic application by parents or caregivers may lead to adverse effects from these commonly available products.

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