Benzocaine is a local anaesthetic or numbing medicine that effectively blocks the body’s nerve signals. It is a local anaesthetic that is used for pain management. It also serves as a topical pain reliever and an essential component of cough drops. (1)
Benzocaine: How it works
The drug works by causing loss of sensation in the skin and provides relief in case of minor burns, insect bites, small wounds and skin irritations. When the nerves are stimulated, the sodium ions flow to the nerve endings and activate them. Then, the nerves send action potential signals to the central nervous system, and the sensation is felt. The flow channels are blocked upon applying Benzocaine, and the sensation is inhibited when something touches the nerves.
Benzocaine topical may reduce pain or discomfort due to minor skin irritations, sunburn, sore throat, ingrown toenails, vaginal or rectal irritation, haemorrhoids and other conditions on the body’s surface. It may be used to numb internal feelings of the mouth, nose, throat, and other areas. It numbs the local area to lessen the pain during the insertion of a medical instrument locally. (1)
Benzocaine was first used for local anaesthesia in dentistry. It is used to suppress the gag reflex and as a lubricant and topical anaesthetic on the larynx, mouth, nasal cavity, respiratory tract, oesophagus and others. It works as a topical anaesthetic, an allergen and a sensitizer. It is a benzoate ester and a substituted aniline also.
Chemically, Benzocaine is a benzoate ester having 4-aminobenzoic acid as the acid component and ethanol as the alcohol component. The carbon atoms in the chemical structure are located at the corners, and hydrogen atoms are attached to the carbon atoms. (2) It is an essential ingredient of many over-the-counter products such as creams, gels, liquids, pads, ointments, swabs, sprays and tablets. Sometimes it is also available in prescription medications. (3)
On being used in the mouth, Benzocaine may cause a condition in which the oxygen in the body tissues can become critically low. A fatal disease known as methemoglobinemia may result in headaches, lethargy, confusion, shortness of breath, increased heart rate, paleness of the skin, lips or fingernails. Benzocaine should be avoided in case of methemoglobinemia has occurred before.
An overdose of Benzocaine can be fatal, and the spray should not touch the nose, eyes or mouth. It should not be used on large body areas, which should be covered with waterproof bandages during drug therapy.
Benzocaine topical is not advisable for a child younger than two years old, even for teething pain in infants. It should be avoided in asthma, emphysema, heart disease, pregnancy or lactation.
The critical side effect is methemoglobinemia and requires urgent medical attention. Other side effects such as mild stinging, burning, itching, swelling, redness of the skin, oozing, blistering or any signs of infection should not be ignored on the administration of Benzocaine.
Benzocaine is a local anaesthetic that works by causing a temporary numbness or loss of feeling in the skin. Its usage is vast but requires a lot of precautions in the administration and is used under medical prescription only.
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