Excipient (pharmacologically inactive substance)
What is it?
Benzyl alcohol (C7H8O) is a colorless liquid with a sharp taste and slight odor. In industry, it is used in the manufacture of other benzyl compounds, and in perfumery and flavoring. As a pharmaceutical product, it is used as an anti-parasite medication used to treat head lice. Benzyl alcohol is also used as a common preservative in many injectable drugs. Benzyl alcohol and benzoic acid have been associated in the past with toxicity and death in neonates who received injectable flush or lavage salines solutions containing benzyl alcohol. Neonates, especially if ill, may not be able to adequately metabolize benzyl alcohol. High concentrations can lead to breathing difficulties, vasodilation, low blood pressure, seizures, and paralysis. Flush solutions with preservatives are now labeled to be avoided in neonates. In addition, nonpreserved saline solution should be used in children to dilute nebulized bronchodilators, for example, with albuterol. Benzyl alcohol may also rarely cause hypersensitivity reactions, such as contact dermatitis, angiodedema, and rash. Other injectable medications that contain low doses of benzyl alcohol preservatives are generally considered safe for newborns.