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Lidocaine gel is an effective topical anesthetic often used in veterinary procedures and animal research. It is also commonly used as a medicine designed to relieve skin irritations, including minor burns and rashes. Applying the gel over broken skin is not advised, so while it might relieve pain before a needle puncture, it should be wiped off beforehand and shouldn't be used on abrasions.
While often used to relieve topical pain, this anesthetic gel is considered dangerous because pain is, among other things, a useful sensation. Numbed skin is more likely to be injured due to a loss of proprioception. If, for example, one's finger is numb, one will be less likely to remove it from a hot burner in time to prevent a serious burn because the pain from the initial burning won't be felt.
Appropriate uses for lidocaine gel include temporary relief from an insect bite or sting, or topical anesthetizing preparation for a mildly painful, brief procedure. It is also acceptable to use for relief from pain associated with bowel movements during hemorrhoids. Less common but still appropriate uses for topical anesthetic gels include minor skin-based surgical procedures like wart removal or preparing a breast for a mammogram.
Lidocaine gel, most commonly available in a 4-percent concentration for topical anesthetic use, can be life threatening if it is used in large quantities or repeatedly used for long periods of time. Heart rhythm and respiration problems arise from too much absorption of an anesthetic. Basic precautionary steps should be taken when using any anesthetic, whether the subject on which it will be used is human or animal.
One should never apply lidocaine to broken skin since this leads to the anesthetic ingredient being more readily taken up into the circulation system. By wrapping an area over which the gel was used, the gel is more likely to be absorbed faster and with greater efficacy, so people are discouraged from wrapping an area over the gel. Heat should not be applied to an area covered with lidocaine gel because this also increases the speed of lidocaine uptake.
Lidocaine should always be used in moderation. Large areas should not be anesthetized with it, nor should thick layers of gel be applied to a single area. If topical pain relief is needed for long periods of time, a physician should be consulted for a better long-term remedy. Lidocaine gel is meant to be used for the relief of acute topical pain or irritation over a relatively small area.