Danielle Kapetanovic, of Chantilly, Virginia, is sharing her story after she nearly lost her 15-month-old daughter Chloe after giving her teething gel to ease her pain.
On the night of Feb. 26, Kapetanovic, 34, says she put less than a “pea size” amount of Orajel’s nighttime teething gel on Chloe’s gums. She says her daughter immediately became unresponsive and was not breathing.
“It was like something had stopped inside of her; like she was not there,” Kapetanovic tells PEOPLE. “Even though her eyes were open and locked in a dead stare, she was completely limp. She was turning blue. I had to react, so I picked her up and I was hitting her back.”
As Kapetanovic’s husband, Mike, called 911, the panicked mom performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on her daughter until she became responsive.
“I was screaming. It’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened to me,” Kapetanovic says. “I just reacted. I was trying to do everything I could to get her back. It was like she was gone. I picked her up and she was just dangling there. It was absolutely horrifying.
“That image is seared in my head. She did not look like she had life in her.”
The entire ordeal lasted up to 30 seconds, she says. Medical technicians soon arrived and determined that the little girl was fine after the incident. Kapetanovic says she stayed up the entire night with Chloe, checking on her throughout the night.
In a statement to PEOPLE, Church & Dwight Co., Inc. the maker of Orajel, says: “Orajel Teething Gels contain benzocaine and are recommended for children two years or older. Church & Dwight Co., Inc. the maker of Orajel, advises on its packaging and website that caregivers of children under the age of 24 months consult their physician or healthcare professional before using Orajel teething products.”
Kapetanovic acknowledges that she knew the gel was intended for children 2 years old and older, but did not think the substance would negatively impact Chloe, who she describes as a “perfectly healthy baby.”
After the incident, Kapetanovic began looking into the gel and learned more about benzocaine, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned against giving to children under 24 months. The substance can cause a rare condition called methemoglobinemia. Symptoms of methemoglobinemia include shortness of breath, blue, gray or pale skin color, dizziness, fatigue and rapid heart rate. The condition can sometimes be fatal, according to the FDA.
“If I had known that this could happen as a result of using this seemingly safe baby product, I would certainly have not given it to her,” Kapetanovic says. “I assumed it was alright, and that was not a safe assumption. Going forward, I won’t assume anything.”
Kapetanovic tells PEOPLE that she contacted Orajel officials to inform them of the incident.
“There’s a product out there being targeted and advertised to babies when it should not be used on babies …. it’s very upsetting,” Kapetanovic says, noting the image of the baby on the box. “I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”
Kapetanovic, who also has a 4-year-old daughter, shared a lengthy Facebook post about the incident and warned parents to not use the gel. The post quickly made its way around the Internet, amassing more than 60,000 shares.