Serious Burns Caused by Topical OTC Analgesics

FDA MedWatch Alert:  Rare cases of serious burns with Over-the-counter topical analgesics

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a MedWatch safety announcement to alert the public of rare cases of serious burns resulting from the use of over-the-counter topical muscle and joint pain relievers containing menthol, methyl salicylate or capsaicin.
Some of the reported burns had serious complications requiring hospitalization. In many cases, the burns occurred after only one application of the OTC topical muscle and joint pain reliever, with severe burning or blistering occurring within 24 hours of the first application. Based on the reported cases, the majority of second- and third-degree burns occurred with the use of products containing menthol as the single active ingredient, and products containing both menthol and methyl salicylate, in concentrations greater than 3% menthol and 10% methyl salicylate. Few cases reported using a capsaicin-containing product.
Consumers using an OTC topical muscle and joint pain reliever who experience signs of skin injury where the product was applied, such as pain, swelling, or blistering of the skin, should stop using the product and seek medical attention immediately.
Patients using OTC topical muscle and joint pain relievers should be cautioned not to bandage the application area tightly and not to apply local heat (heating pads, lamps, hot water in bags or bottles) because doing so can increase the risk of serious burns. OTC topical muscle and joint pain relievers should not be applied to wounds or damaged, broken, or irritated skin. Also do not allow contact with eyes and mucous membranes (such as the skin inside your nose, mouth, or genitals).