1. About lidocaine treatments for mouth and throat
Lidocaine is a local anaesthetic. It's used in some medicines to treat:
Lidocaine treatments for mouth and throat come as gels, ointments, liquids and sprays.
You can buy them from a pharmacy. Some treatments are also available to buy at supermarkets.
Nearly all lidocaine mouth and throat treatments contain other active ingredients – such as antiseptics to help kill germs.
Other types of lidocaine
There are different types of lidocaine, including medicated plasters, skin creams and suppositories.
2. Key facts
- Lidocaine gets to work quickly to numb pain.
- It's generally a safe medicine and side effects are rare.
- If your baby is teething, check the instructions carefully before giving them lidocaine. Not all treatments are suitable for young children.
- Be careful having hot food and drinks after using lidocaine. The numbing effect means you could burn your mouth.
- There are a number of brand names, including Bonjela, Anbesol, Iglu, Calgel and Covonia.
3. Who can and can't use lidocaine for mouth and throat
Most adults and young people over the age of 16 years can use lidocaine for mouth and throat. There are also lidocaine products that are suitable for children and babies.
Teething treatments are for babies from the age of 5 months or 6 months, depending on the brand. Always check the packaging and instructions before giving lidocaine to a baby.
Lidocaine products can look very similar. Some are only suitable for people over the age of 16 years. This is because they contain choline salicylate (an ingredient related to aspirin).
Do not give medicines containing choline salicylate to children under 16 years. It's linked to a rare condition called Reye's syndrome, which can be fatal.
Lidocaine treatments are not suitable for some people. To make sure this medicine is safe for you, tell your doctor or pharmacist if you or your child are:
- allergic to lidocaine or any other medicine
- very sensitive ("hypersensitive") to any of the ingredients
Some lidocaine treatments for mouth and throat may contain very small amounts of alcohol. If this is a problem for you, check with a pharmacist.
4. How and when to use it
Always read the instructions that come with your medicine first.
Wash your hands before and after using the ointment, gel or liquid.
Ointment, gel, liquid or spray for mouth ulcers
- Put a small amount of lidocaine onto your fingertip or a cotton bud.
- Gently wipe it across the surface of your mouth ulcer.
After 3 hours you can use it again, if you need to.
Gel for teething
- Squeeze a small amount of teething gel onto your finger or a cotton bud.
- Gently dab it onto the sore parts of your child's mouth.
- Do not put the gel too far back into their mouth, as this can make them choke.
You can use the gel every 3 hours, if your child needs it.
Ointment, gel, liquid or spray for dentures
- Put a small amount of lidocaine onto your finger.
- Gently rub it onto the sore parts of your gums.
- Wait at least 30 minutes, then put your dentures back in.
Do not put the lidocaine straight onto your dentures.
Spray for sore throats
- Spray 1 or 2 squirts of lidocaine into your mouth.
- Aim the spray onto the sore parts of your throat.
Repeat, following the instructions that come with your medicine.
What if I use too much?
Lidocaine is usually a very safe medicine if you follow the instructions that come with it.
To avoid using too much by accident, always put the gel, ointment or liquid onto your finger or a cotton bud. Do not squeeze it straight into your mouth.
Ask a doctor or pharmacist for advice if you're worried that you've used too much lidocaine.
5. Side effects
Lidocaine mouth and throat products are generally very safe. People rarely have any side effects.
However, as with all medicines, it is possible to be unexpectedly allergic to lidocaine.
Serious allergic reaction
It's extremely rare to have an allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to lidocaine.
Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E if:
- you get a skin rash that may include itchy, red, swollen, blistered or peeling skin
- you're wheezing
- you get tightness in the chest or throat
- you have trouble breathing or talking
- your mouth, face, lips, tongue or throat start swelling
You could be having a serious allergic reaction and may need immediate treatment in hospital.
These are not all the side effects of lidocaine. For a full list see the leaflet inside your medicine packet.
You can report any suspected side effect to the UK safety scheme.
6. Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Lidocaine is generally considered safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, some lidocaine treatments for mouth and throat contain additional ingredients.
They may contain salicylates such as choline salicylate. Salicylates are related to aspirin and are generally not recommended in pregnancy, so always check the ingredients.
Ask a pharmacist or your midwife for advice if you have mouth ulcers or a sore throat. They will be able to recommend the best treatment for you.
Tell your pharmacist or doctor if you're trying to get pregnant, are already pregnant or if you're breastfeeding.
7. Cautions with other medicines
Lidocaine can potentially affect the way other medicines work. However, this is more likely when you're using lidocaine at higher doses or if you're having lidocaine injections.
If you're using your lidocaine treatment for mouth and throat as directed, it usually will not affect any other medicines.
Speak to your pharmacist if you have any questions.
Mixing lidocaine with herbal remedies and supplements
There's very little information about taking herbal medicines and supplements with lidocaine.
For safety, tell your doctor or pharmacist if you're taking any other medicines, including herbal remedies, vitamins or supplements.
8. Common questions
How does lidocaine work?
Lidocaine is a local anaesthetic that numbs the area where you've used it.
It works by stopping nerves from sending pain signals to your brain.
If you use lidocaine treatment for mouth ulcers or a sore throat, it will ease your painful symptoms.
When will my symptoms improve?
Lidocaine treatments for mouth and throat work quickly.
Most people will start to feel better within 30 minutes.
How long will I need to take it for?
You can use lidocaine mouth and throat products for as long as you need them. Make sure you follow the instructions that come with your medicine.
See a dentist or doctor if the sore areas in your mouth are bothering you, or if they do not heal. You may need a different treatment.
Is it safe to use lidocaine for mouth and throat for a long time?
You will usually use lidocaine for a short time to help with your symptoms. See your doctor if your symptoms do not improve.
Only keep on using lidocaine if your doctor or your dentist says it's OK to use it long term.
Can I drink alcohol with it?
Yes, you can drink alcohol with lidocaine mouth and throat treatments.
Is there any food or drink I need to avoid?
No, using lidocaine mouth and throat products does not affect what you can eat or drink.
However, be careful when having hot food and drinks. Lidocaine numbs your mouth making it easier to burn yourself.
Will it affect my fertility?
There is no firm evidence that lidocaine treatments affect male or female fertility.
Are there similar treatments for mouth ulcers and sore throats?
Most of the treatments that you buy for mouth ulcers and sore throats contain lidocaine.
However, some of them contain a different local anaesthetic called benzocaine.
Benzocaine and lidocaine work in a similar way, but benzocaine is better for treating toothache and dental pain.
Ask a pharmacist for advice on the right treatment for you.
Can I drive or ride a bike?
Yes. Lidocaine treatments for mouth and throat will not affect your ability to drive or ride a bike.