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By Riya Parikh, Temple University School of Pharmacy

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Is Lidocaine the Same Thing as Benzocaine?

Lidocaine is not the same thing as benzocaine, though both ingredients are similar in their uses. Both lidocaine and benzocaine are used to ease pain and discomfort and both drugs belong to the same class of topical analgesics (pain relief) and local anesthetics (for numbing pain and discomfort). 

How Does Benzocaine Work and What is Benzocaine Used for?

Benzocaine works by blocking the initiation and conduction of nerve impulses, which results in relief from pain and discomfort. Benzocaine is used for many purposes, which include relief from pain and irritation due to minor skin irritations, cuts, scrapes, minor burns, sunburn, and insect bites. It is also used for relief from hemorrhoids and anorectal pain or itchiness (benzocaine 20% ointment) and poison ivy/oak/sumac (benzocaine 5% spray). Benzocaine creams, ointments, gels, liquids, and sprays are also used for mouth and gum irritation from toothaches, sore gums, canker sores, braces, or minor dental procedures, as well as minor injuries occurring as a result of dentures or orthodontic devices. Topical benzocaine (benzocaine 20% gel or spray) is also used as an anesthetic for local injections. 

How Does Lidocaine Work and What is Lidocaine Used For?

Lidocaine works by blocking the initiation and conduction of nerve impulses, resulting in relief from pain and discomfort. Depending on the strength, lidocaine is used as local anesthesia for minor procedures, as well as for relief from pain and discomfort due to insect bites, pain, soreness, minor burns, sunburns, hemorrhoids or anal itching, fissures, and nerve pain from shingles. Please note that lidocaine at the 5% strength should not be used topically, and should only be used for hemorrhoid or anorectal use.  

Which is More Effective: Lidocaine or Benzocaine?

Lidocaine and benzocaine are similar in their effectiveness to numb pain. Both lidocaine and benzocaine are a part of the same class of drugs and work in a similar way. Benzocaine spray may take 15 to 30 seconds to numb the affected area, whereas lidocaine cream may take 3 to 5 minutes to numb the affected area. 

Is Lidocaine Stronger than Benzocaine? Is Benzocaine Stronger than Lidocaine?

For the same concentration, lidocaine can be considered to be stronger than benzocaine. According to a study, 20% benzocaine was found to be just as effective as 5% lidocaine in reducing pain caused by insertion of a needle. So, even at a lower concentration, lidocaine demonstrated more potency than benzocaine in pain reduction due to a numbing effect.

Does Lidocaine or Benzocaine Last Longer? Which is Better? 

Lidocaine typically lasts longer than benzocaine. Pain relief as a result of benzocaine may last for 15 minutes, whereas lidocaine provides effective relief for 35 to 40 minutes. 

In a clinical study that evaluated the effectiveness of 5% lidocaine and 20% benzocaine for topical numbing, both were found to be equally effective and may provide relief from pain. 

Which is better for itching, benzocaine vs lidocaine?

The effectiveness of benzocaine in numbing lasts for 15 minutes, whereas the numbing effect from lidocaine lasts for 35 to 40 minutes. Based on the potency and strength, lidocaine would be most effective in providing relief from itching due to its effectiveness at a lower concentration and because it has a longer duration. 

Which is better for a sore throat, benzocaine vs lidocaine?

Over-the-counter benzocaine sprays and benzocaine lozenges can be used to treat symptoms occurring due to a sore throat. Benzocaine sprays are effective for 5 to 15 minutes, and the benzocaine lozenges have a numbing effect that may last for up to 3 hours. 

There is no over-the-counter lidocaine product available for sore throat, however there are a few prescription formulations that may be available for sore throat. Lidocaine for sore throat typically starts working in a few minutes. Based on the onset and duration of action, lidocaine may be a better choice for symptomatic relief from sore throat. 

Because it is available over-the-counter, benzocaine is a more readily accessible treatment than lidocaine for sore throat. For more severe cases, please discuss with your medical provider to consider prescription options.  

To learn more about sore throats, causes and treatments, please see Sore Throat: Allergies, Coronavirus, or Cold? 

Can you take benzocaine and lidocaine together?

Since both benzocaine and lidocaine belong to the same class of drugs and provide symptomatic relief through the same mechanism, using them together may lead to excessive side effects such as severe dizziness, drowsiness, irregular heartbeat, and seizures. Both medications provide relief from symptoms without treating the underlying cause, and using both at the same time may mask worsening of symptoms due to heightened numbing effects. It is not advisable to use both benzocaine and lidocaine together.

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This content is for informational use only and does not replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is not a substitute for and should not be relied upon for specific medical recommendations. Please talk with your doctor about any questions or concerns.