WASHINGTON, DC (CBS Local) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning parents against using over-the-counter teething products because of an ingredient that can cause serious side effects and even death in infants.

The FDA released a statement urging Americans to avoid buying over-the-counter (OTC) medications containing benzocaine. “In addition to our letters to companies who make these products, we urge parents, caregivers and retailers who sell them to heed our warnings and not use over-the-counter products containing benzocaine for teething pain,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in the May 23 release.

Benzocaine is marketed as a pain reliever for babies who are teething. It’s also promoted as a remedy for sore throats, canker sores, and gum irritation. Government health officials say the chemical, which is sold in gel, spray, ointment, and lozenge-form, can cause a rare blood condition linked to serious breathing problems.

“Benzocaine, a local anesthetic, can cause a condition in which the amount of oxygen carried through the blood is greatly reduced,” FDA officials wrote in a drug safety update. “This condition, called methemoglobinemia, can be life-threatening and result in death.”

The FDA added that the agency has been warning against using OTC teething medications for the last decade, however infant deaths linked to benzocaine continue to be reported. In 2016, FDA officials began investigating whether the deaths of 10 children were linked to teething tablets and gels produced by companies like Orajel and Hyland’s.

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