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FDA Alerts Public About Danger Of Skin Numbing Products

The FDA has issued a Public Health Advisory to alert consumers, patients, health care professionals, and caregivers about potentially serious and life-threatening side effects from the improper use of skin numbing products. The products, also known as topical anesthetics, are available in over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription forms.

Skin numbing products are used to desensitize nerve endings that lie near the surface of the skin, causing a numbness of the skin. These topical anesthetics contain anesthetic drugs such as lidocaine, tetracaine, benzocaine, and prilocaine in a cream, ointment, or gel. When applied to the skin surface, they can be absorbed into the blood stream and, if used improperly, may cause life-threatening side effects, such as irregular heartbeat, seizures, breathing difficulties, coma, or even death.

The FDA has received reports of adverse events and deaths of two women who used topical anesthetics before laser hair removal.

The FDA strongly advises consumers not to:

- make heavy application of topical anesthetic products over large areas of skin;
- use formulations that are stronger or more concentrated than necessary;
- apply these products to irritated or broken skin;
- wrap the treated skin with plastic wrap or other dressings; and
- apply heat from a heating pad to skin treated with these products.