EMLA cream is a topical anesthetic (numbing cream), which contains lidocaine 5% and prilocaine as active agents. Both these active ingredients work by blocking nerve signals in your body. The cream is used to numb normal intact skin during various dermal procedures such as tattooing, laser hair removal, and other minor medical procedures.

How long does it take to work?

You need to apply EMLA at least one hour before a needle stick and longer prior to painful procedures. EMLA cream will begin to numb the site within 15 minutes after it is applied, however, it takes approximately 60 minutes to provide no pain effect. It lasts up to two to three hours after it has been applied.

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How to apply EMLA cream?

  • Use EMLA cream as directed on the label, or as prescribed by your doctor. Do not apply the cream in larger amounts than recommended.
  • You may need to apply EMLA at home up to four hours before your surgery or any other dermal procedure. Follow the directions given by your physician about how to apply the cream.
  • Use the smallest amount of EMLA cream to numb the skin. Your body may absorb too much of this medicine if you use excess amount. The skin that is cut or irritated may also absorb more topical medication than healthy skin.
  • You may need to cover the skin to help keep the medicine in place. But don’t cover the treated areas unless recommended by the doctor.
  • Carefully follow dosing instructions when applying this medicine to a child. EMLA doses are based on weight in children.
  • Always store EMLA cream at room temperature away from moisture and heat.

How does EMLA cream work?

EMLA cream containing two active ingredients, lidocaine and prilocaine, provides the numbing effect on the skin areas that would otherwise feel pain during medical procedures. The pain is caused by the stimulation of pain receptors at the ends of nerves.

Things to keep in mind before/after application

  • Only the smallest amount of this medication is required to numb the skin and provide pain relief. Don’t use large amounts of the cream or cover treated skin area with a bandage or plastic wrap without medical advice.
  • Inform your doctor if you have liver disease, a history of allergic reaction to lidocaine or prilocaine, or a personal or family history of methemoglobinemia, or any genetic enzyme deficiency. In these cases, EMLA won’t be recommended for you.
  • Avoid accidentally injuring treated skin areas while they are numb. Avoid coming into contact with very hot or very cold surfaces.

When to avoid EMLA cream

  • If you are allergic to any kind of numbing cream, you should not use EMLA.
  • Without the advice of a doctor, fatal overdoses may occur in the case of numbing creams; so, it’s essential to consult your doctor before applying any numbing cream.
  • Ensure that medical procedures is not being performed without a doctor’s presence.
  • FDA pregnancy category B. EMLA is not expected to harm an unborn baby. If you are pregnant, the doctor will recommend this cream to you before the treatment. Lidocaine and prilocaine can pass into breast milk and may harm a nursing baby. So, don’t forget to tell your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby.

Common side effects of EMLA cream

Here are some side effects of EMLA cream in case of allergies or overdose:

  • Mild burning, swelling, tingling, redness and change in skin color where EMLA is applied.

Some serious side effects of EMLA include:

  • slow or shallow breathing
  • pale or bluish skin around the mouth or lips
  • dizziness
  • fainting
  • fast, slow or irregular heartbeat

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