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What Is Lidocaine? - Uses & Side Effects

Instructor: Marisela Duque

Marisela teaches nursing courses at the college level. She also works as a unit educator, teaching experienced nurses about changes in nursing practice.

Imagine a world where you encounter physical pain on a regular basis, and there are no relief measures, like pain medicine, available to you. You have to endure the pain from every small scrape to large animal bites. Fortunately, this is not our reality today, and there are pain relief measures that make life easier. One such measure is lidocaine. After completing this lesson, you will be able to describe lidocaine, including its uses and side effects.

Defining Lidocaine

Imagine a wonderful day on a tropical beach. The sun is shining warm and bright, and you are sitting on the sand with a tropical drink in your hand. You are having such a relaxing time that, despite leaving your sunscreen at home, you waste away the whole day there. As you lounge with your favorite book or gossip magazine, you imagine the gorgeous glow that you are developing and how jealous your coworkers will be of your bronze complexion. Only after showering that evening, do you glance in the mirror and see a red tomato staring back at you. You are burned to a crisp and it is painful! Even the clothes on your back rubbing against your sunburned skin hurts. What if there was a topical medication that could help dull that pain until your usually pasty complexion returned? Lucky for you, there is.

Lidocaine is a numbing medication that comes in lots of forms (gel, cream, injection, and patch). It works by deadening the nerve endings in the skin, which, in turn, blocks the pain signal to the brain. This agent is used in numerous medications such as Burnamycin, Lidoderm, and Xylocaine. It causes pain relief without the sedative effects of general anesthesia or narcotic pain medication, which can leave you feeling sleepy (like a bad hangover without the beers). This medication is only available with a doctor's prescription.

Lidocaine Uses

This miracle agent is used for a variety of different ailments such as:

  • Sunburn or other minor burns
  • Insect bites
  • Poison ivy, oak or sumac
  • Minor cuts or scratches (like when little Billy falls off his skateboard)
  • Medical procedures (such as getting your blood drawn at the doctor's office)
  • Cosmetic procedures (like laser hair removal)
  • Nerve pain following a shingles infection

Special Considerations

As with any medication, there are risks involved. Persons with an allergy to lidocaine, should not use this medication in any form. An allergic reaction can include swelling, itching, stomach problems such as vomiting, and shortness of breath. Lidocaine should be used with extreme caution in children under 3, because children absorb medications differently and it may have toxic side effects, especially if swallowed. Furthermore, persons with certain medical conditions such as heart block, shock, or an infection or broken skin around the area of application should consult a physician before using lidocaine.

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