Anesthetic creams block sodium channels, so the nerves that provide sensitivity to the skin cannot send pain signals. These creams can be used during cosmetic procedures, before minor surgery, before getting a tattoo, or at other times when the skin may be sore.
Using an anesthetic cream
Because pain relief cream reduces the skin's sensitivity to pain, it can be used for a variety of purposes, including:
- Prepare the area for minor surgery.
- To relieve local pain, such as where a tattoo or piercing was done.
- To relieve intense itching, such as from irritants such as poison ivy.
- For pain relief from dermatological treatments such as dermabrasion, botox, filler injections, and laser treatments.
- To minimize pain during hair removal procedures such as waxing or laser hair removal.
- To relieve pain caused by minor skin damage, rashes (such as dermatitis), or sunburn.
If you are familiar with anesthetic creams, you have probably heard of lidocaine, the active ingredient in most brands. Lidocaine is very effective and provides quick results in pain relief. Lidocaine can be found in anesthetic creams such as Dermoplast, LidoRx, and Lidoderm.
Other active ingredients in anesthetic creams can include:
- Benzocaine (Solarkain, Dermoplast, Lanakan)
- Pramoxin (Sarna Sensitive, Proctofoam, Prax)
- Drawkain (Nupercinal, Rektakain)
- Tetracaine (Ametop, Pontocaine, Viratin gel)
Over-the-counter and medical pain reliever creams
Over-the-counter skin pain relief creams may differ from prescription creams in strength and potency. Additionally, most OTC drugs are not FDA approved, but some are marketed as compliant when the company follows applicable FDA regulations.
Lidocaine prescription drugs are available with an active ingredient concentration of 5%, But many over-the-counter products have a much lower concentration.
Other differences in over-the-counter pain relievers (vs. prescription pain relievers) are related to different types of mixes. For example, some topical anesthetic creams are mixed with hydrocortisone cream. One of the trade names for this mixture is Peranex HC. Peranex HC is a prescription-only product.
Using an anesthetic cream can cause several different side effects, depending on the type you are using.
Signs of an allergic reaction.
Examples of side effects that may indicate an allergic reaction / medical emergency include:
- Blurry vision
- Respiratory problems
- Chest pain
- Fast (or irregular) heart rate
- Itchy or rash on the skin
- Swelling of the lips, face, or throat
Please note that the above side effects require immediate medical attention. If you have any of these side effects, call 911 or go to the hospital emergency department right away.
Side effects that do not require immediate medical attention include:
- Changes in the ability to feel hot or cold.
- Swelling or redness of the skin where the cream was applied.
This is not a complete list of side effects. If you have other symptoms, it is important to see your healthcare professional.
Warnings and interactions
Important safety factors to follow when using an anesthetic cream include:
- Avoid getting the cream in your eyes.
- If numbing cream accidentally gets into your eyes, rinse them with plenty of water immediately.
- Only apply the numbing cream to your skin, do not take it by mouth (by mouth).
- Do not apply numbing cream to exposed areas of the skin (including abrasions and scrapes).
- Take care not to damage numb skin (for example, by accidental contact with very hot surfaces).
Get immediate medical attention if pain reliever cream causes any signs of an allergic reaction, for example:
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat.
Stop using the pain reliever cream immediately and call your doctor if you have other side effects, including:
- Severe burning, irritation or tingling sensation at the application site
- Swelling or redness
- Dizziness or drowsiness after applying the medicine to the skin.
- Blurry vision
- Strange sensations to temperature.
- Discoloration of the skin in the area of application of the medicine.
It is important to know that consuming too much lidocaine and prilocaine can cause an overdose, which can potentially have fatal side effects.
Topical medications are absorbed through the skin and if the amount or frequency of use exceeds the recommended dose (stated in the package insert), serious symptoms can occur, including:
- Slow breathing
- Fast and irregular heart rate
- Respiratory disorder
Use as little medicine as possible to numb the skin, and do not cover the treated area with a bandage or any type of plastic covering (unless directed by your healthcare professional).
In 2014, the FDA issued a warning about serious adverse reactions in children ages 5 months to 3 years who received a 2% oral viscous lidocaine solution for mouth pain. Talk to your doctor before using lidocaine in babies or young children.
How to use
Follow the advice of your healthcare professional and the prescription label or product insert when using pain reliever cream.
You may need to apply numbing cream at home a few hours before the surgical procedure (when your surgeon instructs you to do so). Your healthcare professional will advise you how much to use and how long to leave the numbing cream on your skin.
Other important instructions for using pain reliever cream include:
- Use the least amount of cream necessary to numb the skin.
- Avoid applying the numbing cream to large areas of your skin.
- Do not use numbing cream on sensitive areas of your skin (such as your lips).
- Avoid exposing the area to which the numbing cream has been applied.
- Avoid using bandages or plastic wrap on areas of your skin that have been treated with numbing cream.
- If you need to cover your skin that has been treated with an anesthetic cream (to keep the cream in place), be sure to check with your healthcare professional first.
- Avoid using anesthetic cream on open wounds.
- When applying numbing cream to a child, remember that the dose depends on the child's weight.
- Never allow a child to use a numbing cream without adult supervision.
- Store pain reliever cream at room temperature, away from heat and moisture.