FDA Cautions about Topical Pain Relievers that can cause Burns

San Francisco, CA (PRBuzz.com) October 22, 2012 -- Topical pain relievers made to soothe muscles and joints have in a few cases caused skin injuries, the Food and Drug Administration said.

The federal agency said it has gotten reports of mild to serious chemical burns after use of pain relief products including Bengay, Icy Hot, Capzasin, Flexall and Mentholatum.

People who develop blistering or burning pain after using such treatments should seek medical help, the agency said. An adverse reaction is impossible to anticipate, a medical officer said. Some patients reported chemical burns after using one of the products for the first time.

"There's no way to predict who will have this kind of reaction to a topical pain reliever for muscles and joints," Dr. Jane Filie, an FDA medical officer, stated in a news release.

Only 43 cases of burns have been reported, a small fraction of the number of people who use the pain relievers, the FDA said. But some of the patients' conditions were so severe they were treated in a hospital.

The topical pain relievers contain menthol, methyl salicylate and capsaicin.

The products that have menthol or a combination of menthol and methyl salicylate were linked with most of the severe burns. More intense concentrations, over 3% menthol or 10% methyl salicylate, were associated with more problems. The FDA said pain relievers with capsaicin were connected with fewer cases.

The agency urges consumers not to use topical pain relievers on damaged skin or put bandages over areas where the pain relievers have been applied. After using a topical pain reliever, people should not try to heat the area further with hot water bottles or other means.

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