This mom says her toddler stopped breathing after using teething gel

Flickr | Lizi Beth

When babies are teething, parents are eager to do anything they can to ease their pain. But are all of the remedies that are available out there all they’re cracked up to be? According to one Virginia mom, the answer is no, and she’s insisting that parents should be more careful. She’s speaking out now because her 15-month-old daughter nearly died after she used teething gel on the toddler’s gums.

“Scariest Thing That’s Ever Happened To Me”

Danielle Kapetanovic says she put just a “pea-sized amount” of Orajel’s nighttime teething gel on her daughter, Chloe’s, gums on Feb. 26. Almost immediately, the little girl stopped breathing and became unresponsive. Kapetanovic began performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on her daughter while her husband, Mike, called 911.


“I was screaming. It’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened to me,” Kapetanovic told People. “I just reacted. I was trying to do everything I could to get her back. It was like she was gone. I picked her up and she was just dangling there. It was absolutely horrifying. That image is seared in my head. She did not look like she had life in her.”

Luckily, the toddler began breathing again within 30 seconds. When paramedics arrived, they determined that Chloe was OK.

A Warning For Other Parents

After the terrifying incident, Kapetanovic felt compelled to share her story on Facebook in an effort to warn other parents of possible danger in using the product or similar ones.

In a statement to People, Church & Dwight Co., Inc., the maker of Orajel, said the following:

“Orajel™ Teething Gels contain benzocaine and are recommended for children two years or older. Church & Dwight Co., Inc. the maker of Orajel™, advises on its packaging and website that caregivers of children under the age of 24 months consult their physician or healthcare professional before using Orajel™ teething products.”

FDA Warning

The FDA has also warned against giving benzocaine to children under 24 months, as it can cause methemoglobinemia, which can cause symptoms similar to Chloe’s, including seizures and coma, and can also be fatal.

Although Chloe was only 15 months old, her mother assumed that the product would still be safe to use. She says she will not assume anything regarding her child’s safety going forward, and urges other parents to do the same.

According to the FDA, “methemoglobinemia has been reported with all strengths of benzocaine gels and liquids, including concentrations as low as 7.5%.”

They note that the cases occurred mainly in children 2 and under after being treated with benzocaine gel for teething.


“People who develop methemoglobinemia may experience pale, gray or blue colored skin, lips, and nail beds; shortness of breath; fatigue; confusion; headache; lightheadedness; and rapid heart rate,” the FDA states. “In some cases, symptoms of methemoglobinemia may not always be evident or attributed to the condition. The signs and symptoms usually appear within minutes to hours of applying benzocaine and may occur with the first application of benzocaine or after additional use.”

The FDA recommends using natural alternatives to ease babies’ pain while teething, including gently massaging their gums with your finger and giving your child a cool teething ring or a clean, wet, cool washcloth to chew on.

teething ring photo
Flickr | cantaloupe99

Even so-called “homeopathic” remedies, such as the herb belladonna, are not recommended.


One popular brand that contains belladonna, Hyland’s, is no longer distributed in the U.S.

What To Do Instead

The FDA endorses the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations for treating teething pain: gently rub the baby’s gums with a clean finger or give the baby a teething ring that’s been chilled in the refrigerator.


“Teething is a normal phenomenon; all babies teethe,” says Ethan Hausman, M.D., a pediatrician and pathologist at the FDA. “FDA does not recommend any sort of drug, herbal or homeopathic medication or therapy for teething in children.”

Family & Parenting, Health
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About the Author
Kate Streit
Kate Streit lives in Chicago. She enjoys stand-up comedy, mystery novels, memoirs, summer and pumpkin spice anything. Visit Scripps News to see more of Kate's work.

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