A 17 year-old track star from Staten Island, N.J., USA, died from overexposure to methyl salicylate, an ingredient commonly formulated in OTC muscle pain cream that is also known as salicylic acid methyl ester, oil of wintergreen, betula oil and methyl-2-hydroxybenzoate. Arielle Newman reportedly applied one such product constantly throughout the day for a long period of time to relieve the aches and pains in her body. Newman also used the muscle cream in conjunction with other pain-relieving products such as a patch.
New York City Medical Examiner's staff reported that this was the first time they had seen a death from methyl salicylate. As a result, individuals across the country are calling the ingredient's safety into question. Makers of muscle pain relievers, in response to the tragedy, are maintaining that their products are safe, pointing out that the labels of the products clearly state how often it should be used and that this case is an example of product misuse.
The labels of the muscle creams state that the products should only be used for a duration of seven days to treat minor aches and pains. After seven days, the label states that use should be discontinued and that the user should consult a doctor. In addition, muscle creams are to be applied only every few hours.
Toxic levels of salicylate, according to medical authorities, can cause nausea, dizziness and vomiting. In addition, medical authorities have reported that using it on over 40% of the body can also be harmful.
Although some are calling for stronger warning labels on muscle pain creams, many still believe that if used as directed, the creams are far from harmful. Although OTC products do not require a prescription, their directions for usage should still be heeded. Toxic levels of any ingredient can lead to tragic results.