The FDA has warned that topical pain relievers, including Bengay, have been associated with dozens of severe burn injuries — including second- and third-degree burns. These injuries can cause severe scarring, disfigurement, and may need hospitalization. Currently, the warnings on Bengay do not include risk information about burns.
What is Bengay?
Bengay is an over-the-counter cream that is used for temporary relief of joint pain, muscle aches, minor arthritis, and backache. Bengay is sold by Johnson & Johnson, and has been used in the United States for more than a century.
There are several different types Bengay, each containing different amounts of active ingredients. Some of the most powerful products include:
- Ultra Strength Bengay Cream: 10% menthol, 30% methyl salicylate, 4% camphor
- Arthritis Formula Bengay Cream: 8% menthol, 30% methyl salicylate
- Greaseless Bengay Pain Relieving Cream: 10% menthol, 15% methyl salicylate
- And more
The active ingredients in Bengay (primarily menthol) produce a “warming” sensation when applied to the skin. The ingredients cause surface blood vessels to dilate, causing slightly more blood to flow into the affected area.
FDA Warning for Bengay
In September 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a Safety Communication after identifying at least 43 reports of burn injuries caused by topical pain relieving products, such as Bengay. All of these reports were confirmed by a health care professional. Some of the incidents involved second- and third-degree burns.
The FDA warned that the greatest risk of burn injuries is for products containing primarily menthol, or products containing at least 3% menthol and 10% methyl salicylate. Several types of Bengay contain more than this amount. However, the product does not warn about the risk of burn injuries.
The FDA advises:
- Do not apply Bengay to skin that is broken, inflamed, damaged, or irritated
- Do not bandage the area tightly
- Do not use Bengay with another source of heat (such as a heat pad, lamp, or hot water bottle)
- Do not use the product if it causes a burn, pain, irritation, or inflammation
Bengay Chemical Burns
Although burn injuries associated with topical pain relievers are rare, they do occur. A chemical burn occurs when human tissue is damaged or inflamed after contact with a toxic chemical. If the chemical is not removed, the burns can be very severe. They may cause tissue damage/death, scarring, and disfigurement. Hospital treatment may be necessary.
Symptoms of a chemical burn include:
- Redness or discoloration of the affected area