Methemoglobinemia can be caused by inherited enzyme deficiencies or abnormal hemoglobin structure. Methemoglobinemia may also be the result of oxidative stress that overwhelms normal red cell protective mechanisms.1
We present a case of methemoglobinemia in an infant who was treated with gum asafoetida, a compound used as a folk remedy and contained in certain foods. Laboratory investigation demonstrated an oxidizing effect of asafoetida on fetal hemoglobin but not on adult hemoglobin. This chemical, which is sold over the counter in pharmacies, must be considered as being potentially life threatening if given to infants.
A previously well, 5-week-old black male infant was admitted to the hospital six hours after the onset of tachypnea, grunting, and cyanosis.
- Copyright © 1984 by the American Academy of Pediatrics