Skip to main content

Benzocaine (EENT)

Class: Local Anesthetics
ATC Class: R02AD01
VA Class: OR900
CAS Number: 94-09-7
Brands: Americaine, Anbesol, Hurricaine, Mycinettes, Topex, Zilactin-B

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com on May 24, 2021. Written by ASHP.

Introduction

Local anesthetic.

Uses for Benzocaine (EENT)

Oral Pain

Self-medication (alone or in fixed combination with various other drugs) for temporary relief of minor sore throat pain.

Self-medication (alone or in fixed combination with various other drugs) for temporary relief of pain associated with various oral or dental conditions (e.g., cold sores, ulcerations, canker sores, minor injury/irritation, toothache, sore gums, orthodontic appliances, denture irritation).

FDA states that benzocaine preparations are associated with serious risk (e.g., methemoglobinemia) and provide little to no benefit in treating oral pain. Do not use in infants and children <2 years of age. Use sparingly and only as needed in adults and children ≥2 years of age. (See Methemoglobinemia under Cautions.)

Do not use for teething pain in infants; risk of methemoglobinemia outweighs any potential benefits.

Local Anesthesia

Has been used topically for local anesthesia of oral or other accessible mucous membranes (except eyes).

Fixed-combination preparation containing benzocaine with butamben and tetracaine also has been used for local anesthesia prior to surgical, endoscopic, or other medical procedures, and also for suppressing the gag reflex.

However, methemoglobinemia has occurred and FDA states that benzocaine products are not approved for such uses. (See Methemoglobinemia under Cautions.)

Otic Pain

Has been used topically in fixed combination with antipyrine for temporary relief of ear pain associated with acute otitis media of various causes. However, efficacy and safety not established.

Topical anesthetics may provide symptomatic relief but do not preclude need for appropriate anti-infective therapy when ear pain is secondary to infection.

Cerumen Removal

Has been used in fixed combination with antipyrine to facilitate removal of excessive or impacted cerumen (earwax). However, efficacy and safety not established.

Benzocaine (EENT) Dosage and Administration

General

  • Benzocaine is commercially available (alone and in fixed combination with other drugs [e.g., antitussives, analgesics, demulcents, other local anesthetics]) in many dosage forms, some of which are intended for self-medication; consult manufacturer’s product labeling for complete directions for appropriate dosage and administration of the specific product.

Administration

Oral Administration

Administer orally as a lozenge.

Allow lozenge to slowly dissolve in the mouth.

Topical Administration

Apply topically to mucosal membranes as an aerosol spray, gel, cream, swab, solution, or ointment; consult manufacturer’s product labeling for complete directions for appropriate application of the specific product.

Avoid contact with the eye(s). Not for injection.

Manufacturer of benzocaine in fixed combination with butamben and tetracaine hydrochloride (Cetacaine) recommends application directly to site where pain control is required; not necessary to dry tissue prior to application.

Manufacturers of some topical benzocaine products intended for self-medication suggest that adults supervise children <12 years of age during drug administration.

Aerosol Spray

Amount of benzocaine contained in a single spray varies among preparations and depends on solution concentration, amount of time actuator is depressed, residual volume in can, and spatial orientation of can during administration.

Benzocaine 20% aerosol spray: Spray directly onto oral mucosa.

Cetacaine (benzocaine, butamben, and tetracaine hydrochloride fixed combination) aerosol spray: Apply over ≤1 second.

Gel, Liquid, Cream, Ointment, or Swab

For self-medication, apply topically using cotton swab or finger according to manufacturer’s directions.

Cetacaine (benzocaine, butamben, and tetracaine hydrochloride fixed combination) gel: Spread thinly and evenly over the application area using a cotton swab.

Cetacaine (benzocaine, butamben, and tetracaine hydrochloride fixed combination) liquid: For dental procedures (e.g., scaling, pre-injection anesthesia), apply topical liquid drop-wise into periodontal pockets using syringe and delivery device supplied by manufacturer. For surface application to mucosal membranes, apply single dip of topical liquid with a cotton or brush applicator. Do not hold applicator in position for an extended period to minimize risk of local reactions.

Dosage

Administer smallest amount required to produce desired response.

Benzocaine is commercially available (alone and in fixed combination with other drugs [e.g., antitussives, analgesics, demulcents, other local anesthetics]) in many dosage forms; consult manufacturer’s product labeling for appropriate dosage of the specific product.

Each 200 mg of Cetacaine aerosol, liquid, or gel contains 28 mg benzocaine, 4 mg butamben, and 4 mg tetracaine hydrochloride.

Pediatric Patients

Oral Pain
Oral

Benzocaine 15-mg lozenge: For self-medication in children ≥3 years of age, take 1 lozenge; repeat every 2 hours as necessary or as directed by a clinician.

Benzocaine 15-mg lozenge (in fixed combination with menthol): For self-medication in children ≥5 years of age, take 1 lozenge; repeat every 2 hours as necessary or as directed by a clinician.

Benzocaine 6- or 7.5-mg lozenge (in fixed combination with dextromethorphan hydrobromide 5 mg with or without menthol): For self-medication in children 6–12 years of age, take 1 lozenge; repeat every 4 hours as needed up to 6 lozenges daily or as directed by a clinician.

Benzocaine 6 or 7.5-mg lozenge (in fixed combination with dextromethorphan hydrobromide 5 mg with or without menthol): For self-medication in children ≥12 years of age, take 2 lozenges (1 immediately after the other); repeat every 4 hours as necessary up to 12 lozenges daily or as directed by a clinician.

Topical

Benzocaine 10 and 20% gel, swabs, cream, or liquid: For self-medication in children ≥2 years of age, apply up to 4 times daily to affected oral area(s) or as directed by a clinician or dentist.

Benzocaine 20% aerosol spray: For self-medication in children ≥2 years of age, spray for 0.5 seconds by pressing and immediately releasing actuator; use up to 4 times daily or as directed by a clinician or dentist.

Local Anesthesia†
Topical

Cetacaine (benzocaine, butamben, and tetracaine hydrochloride fixed combination) aerosol, liquid, or gel: Manufacturer states that an appropriate pediatric dosage has not been established; dosage should be reduced in very young patients.

Adults

Oral Pain
Oral

Benzocaine 15-mg lozenge (alone or in fixed combination with menthol): For self-medication, take 1 lozenge; repeat every 2 hours as necessary or as directed by a clinician.

Benzocaine 6- or 7.5-mg lozenge (in fixed combination with dextromethorphan hydrobromide 5 mg with or without menthol): For self-medication, take 2 lozenges (1 immediately after the other); repeat every 4 hours as necessary up to 12 lozenges daily or as directed by a clinician.

Topical

Benzocaine 10 and 20% gel, swabs, ointments, creams, topical aerosols, or liquid: For self-medication, apply to affected oral area up to 4 times daily or as directed by a clinician or dentist.

Benzocaine 20% aerosol spray: For self-medication, spray for 0.5 seconds by pressing and immediately releasing actuator; use up to 4 times daily or as directed by a clinician or dentist.

Local Anesthesia†
Topical

Cetacaine (benzocaine, butamben, and tetracaine hydrochloride fixed combination) aerosol: Spray onto site(s) for ≤1 second; at normal temperatures, the average expulsion rate is approximately 200 mg of solution per second. Do not exceed 2 seconds.

Cetacaine (benzocaine, butamben, and tetracaine hydrochloride fixed combination) liquid: Apply 0.2 mL (200 mg of solution) with a cotton applicator or directly to the site(s). Do not exceed 0.4 mL (400 mg).

Cetacaine (benzocaine, butamben, and tetracaine hydrochloride fixed combination) gel: Apply 200 mg of gel (a bead approximately 0.2–0.5 inches long) to site(s). Do not exceed 400 mg.

Prescribing Limits

Pediatric Patients

Oral Pain
Oral

Benzocaine 6- or 7.5-mg lozenge (in fixed combination with dextromethorphan hydrobromide 5 mg with or without menthol) in children 6–12 years of age: Do not exceed 6 lozenges in 24 hours for a maximum of 2 days for sore throat or 7 days for sore mouth.

Benzocaine 6- or 7.5-mg lozenge (in fixed combination with dextromethorphan hydrobromide 5 mg) in children ≥12 years of age: Do not exceed 12 lozenges in 24 hours for a maximum of 2 days for sore throat or 7 days for sore mouth.

Benzocaine 15-mg lozenges in children ≥3 years of age: Do not use for more than 2 days unless directed by clinician.

Benzocaine 15-mg lozenges (in fixed combination with menthol) in children ≥5 years of age: Do not use for more than 2 days unless directed by clinician.

Topical

Benzocaine 10 or 20% gel, swabs, cream, aerosol spray, ointment, or solution in children ≥2 years of age: Maximum 4 applications daily for 7 days.

Adults

Oral Pain
Oral

Benzocaine 6- or 7.5-mg lozenges (in fixed combination with dextromethorphan with or without menthol): Do not exceed 12 lozenges in 24 hours.

Benzocaine 15-mg lozenges: Do not use for more than 2 days unless directed by clinician.

Topical

Benzocaine 10 or 20% gel, swabs, cream, aerosol spray, ointment, or solution: Maximum 4 applications daily for 7 days.

Local Anesthesia†
Topical

Cetacaine (benzocaine, butamben, and tetracaine hydrochloride fixed combination) aerosol spray: Do not spray >2 seconds.

Cetacaine (benzocaine, butamben, and tetracaine hydrochloride fixed combination) liquid: Do not apply >0.4 mL (12–14 drops).

Cetacaine (benzocaine, butamben, and tetracaine hydrochloride fixed combination) gel: Do not apply >400 mg.

Special Populations

Geriatric Patients

The manufacturers of Cetacaine (benzocaine, butamben, and tetracaine hydrochloride fixed combination) recommend reducing the dosage in debilitated geriatric patients.

Acutely Ill Patients

The manufacturers of Cetacaine (benzocaine, butamben, and tetracaine hydrochloride fixed combination) recommend reducing the dosage in acutely ill patients.

Cautions for Benzocaine (EENT)

Contraindications

  • Known or suspected hypersensitivity to benzocaine, other ester-type local anesthetics, or any ingredient in the formulation.

  • Cetacaine (benzocaine, butamben, and tetracaine hydrochloride fixed combination): Injection or use in eyes; patients with cholinesterase deficiency; application to large areas of denuded or inflamed tissue (excessive systemic absorption could result). Do not apply Cetacaine under dentures or cotton rolls (possible escharotic effect).

Warnings/Precautions

Warnings

Serious Adverse Effects Associated with Local Anesthetics

Serious adverse effects (e.g., seizures, coma, irregular heartbeat, respiratory depression) reported following topical application of local anesthetics to skin; reported after application of extemporaneously compounded topical preparations containing high concentrations of anesthetics for cosmetic procedures and following use for FDA-approved indications. Use lowest concentration likely to be effective, and use in small amounts for shortest period possible; use of FDA-approved preparations recommended.

Methemoglobinemia

Methemoglobinemia, a rare but serious blood disorder, reported after topical benzocaine application; reported mostly with use of aerosol preparations during medical procedures (e.g., intubation, endoscopic, or bronchoscopic procedures), but also with topical application of OTC preparations to oral mucosa. Fatalities have occurred.

Most reported cases with OTC gel and liquid preparations involved children <2 years of age who received benzocaine gel for teething; however, cases also reported in adults using a gel or liquid preparation for toothache relief. Do not use for teething. (See Advice to Patients.)

Manifestations of methemoglobinemia (e.g., pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds; headache, lightheadedness, anxiety, confusion, or fatigue; tachycardia; dyspnea, increased respiratory rate, or decreased blood oxygen saturation) may occur within minutes to 1–2 hours following application.

Concomitant ingestion or use of nitrite- or nitrate-containing products (e.g., foods, drugs) may be additive in inducing methemoglobin formation.

Patients with asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, or heart disease and those who smoke may be at risk for methemoglobinemia-related complications; infants <4 months of age, geriatric adults, and individuals with certain inborn defects (e.g., glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency, hemoglobin M disease, NADH methemoglobin reductase deficiency, pyruvate kinase deficiency) may be predisposed to methemoglobinemia.

Development of methemoglobinemia is not dose related; may occur following a single application.

Observe patients receiving aerosol benzocaine preparations for signs of methemoglobinemia during the medical procedure and for ≥2 hours after benzocaine administration.

Do not use benzocaine preparations in children <2 years of age, and use sparingly, only when needed, and not more than 4 times daily in adults and children ≥2 years of age. (See Advice to Patients.)

May obtain a direct measure of methemoglobin through cooximetry (arterial blood gas and standard 2-wavelength pulse oximetry are unreliable). Promptly treat patients who develop methemoglobinemia (e.g., administer methylene blue if appropriate).

Sensitivity Reactions

Tartrazine Sensitivity

Some commercially available formulations of benzocaine (e.g., Orajel Double Medicated Toothache and Gum Relief Plus Liquid, Orajel Mouth Sore Swabs) contain the dye tartrazine (FD&C yellow No. 5), which may cause allergic reactions including bronchial asthma in susceptible individuals. Although the incidence of tartrazine sensitivity is low, it frequently occurs in patients who are sensitive to aspirin.

Hypersensitivity

Hypersensitivity reactions, including anaphylaxis, rarely reported.

Possible dehydration of epithelium and escharotic effect; therefore, do not apply topical benzocaine under dentures or cotton rolls.

Possible localized allergic reactions or contact dermatitis characterized by erythema and pruritus that may progress to vesiculation and oozing; most common after prolonged or repeated use. If rash, urticaria, edema, irritation, or other manifestations of allergy develop, discontinue the drug and consult a clinician. Avoid prolonged use except under continual supervision.

General Precautions

Self-Medication

When used for self-medication for mouth soreness, discontinue drug and consult a clinician if the condition worsens or symptoms persist for >7 days or resolve and occur again within a few days.

When used for self-medication for sore throat, discontinue drug and consult a clinician if sore throat is severe, persists for >2 days, or is accompanied or followed by fever, headache, rash, pain, redness, swelling, nausea, or vomiting.

Fixed-Combination Preparations

When used in fixed combination with other drugs (e.g., antitussives, analgesics, demulcents, other local anesthetics), consider the cautions, precautions, and contraindications associated with the other drug(s).

Specific Populations

Pregnancy

Effects on fetal development not known. Do not use during pregnancy unless benefits outweigh risks.

Pediatric Use

FDA states that benzocaine preparations should not be used in children <2 years of age.

Benzocaine 15 mg (in fixed combination with menthol) lozenges should not be used in children <5 years of age.

Benzocaine 7.5 mg (in fixed combination with dextromethorphan) lozenges should not be used in children <6 years of age.

Appropriate pediatric dosage not established for Cetacaine (benzocaine, butamben, and tetracaine hydrochloride fixed combination) preparations.

Common Adverse Effects

Generally nontoxic when applied topically, but sensitization and methemoglobinemia may occur. (See Warnings/Precautions under Cautions.)

Benzocaine (EENT) Pharmacokinetics

Absorption

Onset

Following Cetacaine (benzocaine, butamben, and tetracaine hydrochloride fixed combination) gel, liquid, or spray administration, anesthesia occurs within approximately 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Following topical application of benzocaine 20% aerosol, anesthesia occurs within approximately 20 seconds.

Duration

Following Cetacaine (benzocaine, butamben, and tetracaine hydrochloride fixed combination) gel, liquid, or spray administration, anesthesia lasts approximately 30–60 minutes.

Stability

Storage

Oral

Lozenges

20–25°C. Protect from humidity.

Topical

Gel, Liquid, and Ointment

20–25°C. Do not refrigerate.

Aerosol

20% aerosol: 15–30°C.

Actions

  • Alleviates pain and discomfort.

Advice to Patients

  • Before recommending use of benzocaine preparations, inform patients or caregivers of the signs and symptoms of methemoglobinemia and advise them to seek immediate medical attention if such manifestations occur.

  • Advise parents and caregivers not to use benzocaine or other local anesthetics for treatment of teething pain in infants and children, and to follow recommendations by AAP for alternative treatment options (e.g., rubbing or massaging gums with fingers, using a firm rubber teething ring). Advise adults experiencing mouth soreness or pain to follow treatment strategies recommended by the American Dental Association.

  • Advise patients not to use OTC benzocaine products in children <2 years of age and to use sparingly, only as needed, and no more than 4 times a day in adults and children ≥2 years of age.

  • Advise patients, parents, and caregivers to store benzocaine preparations out of reach of children.

  • Importance of discontinuing therapy and consulting clinician if swelling, rash, irritation, or fever develops during therapy.

  • Importance of avoiding contact with the eyes.

  • Importance of using as directed and not applying topical preparations in large quantities, particularly over raw surfaces or blistered areas.

  • Advise patients using benzocaine preparations for self-medication not to exceed the recommended dosage or duration of therapy and to carefully read the manufacturer’s product labeling; importance of following directions for appropriate dosage and administration.

  • Advise patients using benzocaine for self-medication of mouth soreness or toothache to discontinue the drug and consult a clinician if symptoms do not improve after 7 days or if irritation, pain, or redness persists or worsens.

  • Advise patients using benzocaine for self-medication of sore throat to consult a clinician if sore throat is severe, persists for >2 days, or is accompanied or followed by fever, headache, rash, swelling, nausea, or vomiting.

  • Importance of women informing their clinician if they are or plan to become pregnant or plan to breast-feed.

  • Importance of informing clinicians of existing or contemplated concomitant therapy, including prescription and OTC drugs, as well as any concomitant illnesses.

  • Importance of informing patients of other important precautionary information. (See Cautions.)

Preparations

Excipients in commercially available drug preparations may have clinically important effects in some individuals; consult specific product labeling for details.

Please refer to the ASHP Drug Shortages Resource Center for information on shortages of one or more of these preparations.

Benzocaine

Routes

Dosage Forms

Strengths

Brand Names

Manufacturer

Oral

Lozenges

15 mg

Chloraseptic Warming Sore Throat Lozenges

Prestige Consumer

Mycinettes

Pfeiffer

Topical

Aerosol

20%

Americaine Anesthetic Spray

Insight

Hurricaine Spray

Beutlich

Topex Metered Spray

Sultan

Gel

10%

Anbesol Regular Strength Gel

Wyeth

Orajel Regular Mild Toothache Relief Medicated Gel

Church and Dwight

Zilactin-B

Blairex

20%

Anbesol Maximum Strength Gel

Wyeth

Hurricaine

Beutlich

Topex

Sultan

Solution

10%

Anbesol Regular Strength Liquid

Wyeth

20%

Anbesol Maximum Strength Liquid

Wyeth

Hurricaine

Beutlich

Topex

Sultan

Swab

20%

Orajel Maximum Toothache and Oral Pain Relief Swabs

Church and Dwight

Orajel Mouth Sore Swabs

Church and Dwight

Other Benzocaine Combinations

Routes

Dosage Forms

Strengths

Brand Names

Manufacturer

Oral

Lozenges

6 mg with Menthol 10 mg

Chloraseptic Sore Throat

Prestige Consumer

6 mg with Menthol 10 mg and Dextromethorphan Hydrobromide 5 mg

Chloraseptic Sore Throat and Cough

Prestige Consumer

7.5 mg with Dextromethorphan Hydrobromide 5 mg

Cepacol Extra Strength Sore Throat and Cough

Reckitt Benckiser

15 mg with Menthol 2.3 mg

Cepacol Extra Strength Sore Throat

Reckitt Benckiser

15 mg with Menthol 2.5 mg

Cepacol Extra Strength Sore Throat

Reckitt Benckiser

15 mg with Menthol 3.6 mg

Cepacol Extra Strength Sore Throat

Reckitt Benckiser

15 mg with Menthol 10 mg

Chloraseptic Max Sore Throat

Prestige Consumer

15 mg with Menthol 20 mg

Cepacol Instamax Sore Throat

Reckitt Benckiser

Topical

Aerosol

14% with Butamben 2% and Tetracaine Hydrochloride 2%

Cetacaine Topical Anesthetic Spray

Cetylite

20% with Benzethoniuim Chloride 0.2%

Dermoplast First Aid Spray

Moberg

20% with Menthol 0.5%

Dermoplast Pain Relieving Spray

Moberg

Cream

20% with Menthol 0.25% and Zinc Chloride 0.15%

Orajel Severe PM Toothache and Gum Relief Plus Triple Medicated Cream

Church and Dwight

20% with Menthol 0.5% and Zinc Chloride 0.15%

Orajel Severe Toothache and Gum Relief Plus Triple Medicated Cream

Church and Dwight

20% with Allantoin 0.5%, Camphor 3%, Dimethicone 2%, Menthol 1%, and White Petrolatum 64%

Orajel Moisturelock Cold Sore Symptom Treatment

Church and Dwight

Gel

14% with Butamben 2% and Tetracaine Hydrochloride 2%

Cetacaine Topical Anesthetic Gel

Cetylite

20% with Benzalkonium Chloride 0.02% and Zinc Chloride 0.1%

Orajel Mouth Sore Gel

Church and Dwight

20% with Menthol 0.26%

Orajel Maximum Toothache Relief Double Medicated Gel

Church and Dwight

20% with Menthol 0.5% and Zinc Chloride 0.15%

Orajel Severe Toothache and Gum Relief Plus Triple Medicated Gel

Church and Dwight

20% with Menthol 0.7% and Zinc Chloride 0.15%

Orajel for Denture Pain Triple Medicated Gel

Church and Dwight

Ointment

20% with Allantoin 1%, Camphor 3%, and White Petrolatum 64.9%

Anbesol Cold Sore Therapy

Wyeth

Solution

5% with Benzalkonium Chloride 0.13%

Orajel Touch-free Cold Sore Patented Treatment

Church and Dwight

14% with Butamben 2% and Tetracaine Hydrochloride 2%

Cetacaine Topical Anesthetic Liquid

Cetylite

20% w/v with Benzoin Tincture Compound

Kank-A Mouth Pain Liquid

Blistex

20% with Menthol 0.1%

Orajel Severe Toothache and Gum Relief Plus Double Medicated Liquid

Church and Dwight

AHFS DI Essentials™. © Copyright 2022, Selected Revisions June 3, 2019. American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Inc., 4500 East-West Highway, Suite 900, Bethesda, Maryland 20814.

† Use is not currently included in the labeling approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Show article references