One of the more difficult aspects of being a first generation Latino in the United States is the constant push-pull between your family traditions and western culture. You want to shop at the Gap, but abuela makes all your dresses (at least if you are Zoe Saldana). You want to use pain reliever gels for your teething baby, but your immigrant parents think you are crazy and want you to use weird herbs from back home.

While abuela was waaaay wrong about the Gap (sure she can sew but Gap dresses are SO much easier!), according to the FDA, she was probably right about staying away from baby pain relieving gels. In a new warning issued today, the FDA is saying that the benzocaine used in Orajel and Anbesol (that's the chemical that numbs the gums) can sometimes cause a rare fatal condition called Methemoglobinemia.

This isn't the first time the FDA has warned against this drug which, in rare cases, causes oxygen levels in the blood to drop to dangerously low levels that could result in death. According to CNN the symptoms include:

...pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips and fingernail beds, shortness of breath, headache, light-headedness and rapid heart rate.

"Symptoms can occur within minutes to hours after benozcaine use," says FDA Pharmacist Mary Ghods said. "They can occur after using the drug for the first time, as well as after several uses."

While this seems very rare--since 2006 there have only been 29 reports of benzocaine gel-related cases of methemoglobinemia--it is still super scary, especially if you have used the gels (oh yeah, of course I did) on your baby.

And for acculturated mamis (that's what they call you, when you are first or second generation Latina who has adopted the American lifestyle because you grew up here and don't know another lifestyle--didn't know it had a name, did ya?) it is even harder to process. At some point, one of your relatives was probably yelling at you about using an herb or over the counter product that your doctor never heard of or you can't buy at CVS (unless your CVS is in el barrio, in which case, anything goes). Who do you trust--the MD who says it is OK to use the pain gel or your abuela, who is throwing Humphreys at you and calling the doctor is in an idiota?

Turns out in this case you listen to Abuelita!

Image via bingbing/flickr

About the author

Stacey C. Rivera is a frustrated pastry chef in a working mom's body. She's the kind of person who cuts off all her hair on a whim and who uses a rice pot to cook Goya instant rice, so that her abuela isn't mad at her.

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