Can Muscle Cream Cause Death?

Knoxville (WVLT) - A medical examiner has blamed a 17-year-old track star's death on the use of too much anti-inflammatory muscle cream.

The cross country runner died after her body absorbed high levels of methyl salicylate, found in sports creams like Bengay and Icy Hot.

It's the first time the New York City medical examiner's office has reported a death from using a sports cream.

Methyl salicylate poisoning is unusual, and deaths from high levels of the chemical are rare.

In addition to spreading muscle cream on her legs between track meets, 17-year-old Arielle Newman, a cross country runner at Notre Dame Academy on Staten Island, was also using adhesive pads containing the anti-inflammatory, plus an unspecified third product containing the chemical.

The medical examiner says the teen used the topical medication to excess, causing death.

"I don't think I've ever heard of it happening. So, it was quite a surprise,” says Corey Remillard from D1 Sports Training.

The label on ultra strength Bengay says the product should be applied no more than three or four times daily and consumers should stop and see a doctor if the condition worsens or symptoms persist for more than a week.

Remillard says he recommends proper stretching to reduce pain or swelling, rather than topical medications. "It's not something that I recommend to any of our athletes. We spend time stretching and warming up, just like a jog, those type things."

Medical examiners determined Newman used the products and the absorbed methyl salicylate over time.

And medical professionals say chronic use is more dangerous than one time use.

But they add, exercise and heat can accentuate absorption.

"The heat and the exercise probably increased the absorption that took place in her body. So, those are things you have to take into consideration,” Remillard says.

An important reminder to consumers about the importance of reading the label on this and all over the counter medicines.

If the poisoning occurred through skin exposure, a person may develop a rash or mild burn.

A person will likely be advised to wash the skin every few hours for several days.

And if the skin is burned, it will be surgically removed.


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