Tetracaine (Topical)

Tetracaine topical is a cream, ointment, gel or solution also known under the brand names Cepacol Viractin, Pontocaine and Supracine. It is used to cause numbness or loss of feeling prior to medical tests or procedures.


What is Tetracaine?

Tetracaine is one of a group of medicines known as topical local anesthetics. It is used to temporarily deaden the nerve endings found in the skin. Tetracaine can be used all over the body but only by doctor's prescription or doctor's direct use. Tetracaine is helpful during procedures such as skin biopsy or minor skin surgery, as well as insertion of IV needle or other needle-stick procedures.

How does Tetracaine work?

Tetracaine works by blocking signals sent by the nerves to the body. By doing so, Tetracaine is effective for use prior to medical treatments, tests or procedures that may cause pain.

What procedures is Tetracaine used for?

Tetracaine is effective on all parts of the body and is commonly used for procedures that would normally cause a patient pain such as starting an IV line or taking a skin scraping or sample or even prior to using another numbing agent administered via needle.

Use of Tetracaine is also common before non-medical procedures, such as laser hair removal. Overdose is more likely to occur when using this medication without the advice of a medical doctor. Caution should be observed when using Tetracaine outside of a medical environment.

Conditions treated

  • Prevents unnecessary pain during medical procedures

Type of medicine

  • Local anesthetic

Side effects

Inform your doctor if you are allergic to Tetracaine or any other medication like it, as well as any other types of allergies you have, such as to animals, foods, dyes, preservatives or other substances.

Tetracaine has been known to cause side effects in certain patients on rare occasions. If you experience any of the following side effects while being treated with Tetracaine, report them to your healthcare professional immediately:

  • Blurred vision
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Dizziness, faintness, or lightheadedness when getting up from a lying or sitting position suddenly
  • Fainting
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Fear or nervousness
  • Hearing Loss
  • Lightheadedness or fainting
  • No blood pressure or pulse
  • No breathing
  • Numbness
  • Restlessness
  • Ringing or buzzing in the ears
  • Seizures
  • Shakiness in the legs, arms, hands, or feet
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sleepiness
  • Slow or irregular heartbeat
  • Stopping of heart
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking of the hands or feet
  • Unconsciousness
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness

These side effects, if not severe or prolonged, do not typically require medical attention.


Use the smallest amount required in order to numb the skin and relieve pain. To treat minor skin conditions, a thin layer of Tetracaine topical should be applied to the affected area up to four times per day.

If you experience an overdose of Tetracaine, contact your health care provider immediately.


It is of critical importance that you disclose your full medical history, as well as details of any drugs you are currently taking or have taken in the recent past, before you begin a course of treatment with Tetracaine or any other drug. Be certain to include all prescription as well as non-prescription medications you may be taking and details of any vitamin, herbal or holistic supplements or treatments you are currently taking or have taken in the recent past.

Patients are urged to fully disclose all prescription and non-prescription drugs they are currently taking or have taken in the recent past as well as any vitamin, herbal or holistic supplements and remedies they are on during treatment with Tetracaine.

Consult your doctor on how to use Tetracaine with or without food, alcohol or tobacco. If you have other medical problems, be aware that their condition could be affected or worsened by use of Tetracaine. Inform your doctor if you have the following medical issues:

  • Brain or spinal conditions
  • Eye problems
  • Heart and blood vessel problems
  • Infection at or near the application area
  • Large sores, broken skin or severe injury at the application area

Avoid using other medications on areas treated with Tetracaine topical unless expressly instructed by your health care provider to avoid any potentially dangerous side effects.


Tetracaine is administered by a healthcare professional in a medical setting and is for use on the skin only. Do not get Tetracaine in your nose, mouth or eyes as it could cause severe irritation. If it does get in any of these areas, wash immediately with clear water and contact your healthcare provider.

If you are given Tetracaine for use, read and follow all directions on the prescription label. Do not use more or less than the indicated amounts. Your body may absorb more Tetracaine if you use too much or if you apply it over too large an area. Do not apply with heat or use bandages or plastic wrappings on skin treated with Tetracaine topical. Skin that is abraded, sunburned, cut, blistered or irritated may absorb more Tetracaine than healthy skin; these areas should be avoided.

An overdose of Tetracaine topical can cause fatal side effects. To avoid overdose, do not apply more medicine than necessary or prescribed. Do not apply to large areas of skin. Do not cover the area with plastic wrap or bandages; do not use heat during application. Do not apply over cut or broken skin, as these areas could absorb more Tetracaine than medically safe. Symptoms of overdose include:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Seizure
  • Coma
  • Slowed breathing
  • Respiratory failure

If you experience any of these overdose symptoms, contact emergency medical services and/or your health care provider immediately. You should avoid Tetracaine if you have been allergic to it in the past or in medicines like it such as lidocaine, benzocaine or prilocaine.

If you have been diagnosed with the following medical conditions, make sure to inform your health care provider so that they can determine if Tetracaine is safe for use on your body:

  • Brain or spinal conditions
  • Eye problems
  • Heart and blood vessel problems
  • Infection at or near the application area
  • Large sores, broken skin or severe injury at the application area

No adequate studies exist on pregnant women to determine if Tetracaine affects the unborn child. Inform your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant before treatment with Tetracaine. It is not known if Tetracaine is passed on to infants from breast milk. Inform your doctor if you are currently breastfeeding.

Geriatric patients have not been studied to the extent that any safety or effectiveness recommendations can be made with the use of Tetracaine. Proceed with this treatment only under the advice of your physician.


Tetracaine should be stored in its original packaging and out of sight and reach of children. Keep Tetracaine away from direct sources of light, excessive heat and moisture. Do not use Tetracaine if it appears to be discolored or if it is crystallized.

Disposal of unused or expired Tetracaine should be as instructed by your healthcare provider or pharmacist for safety purposes to both you and the environment.


Tetracaine topical is a local anesthetic used to temporarily numb or deaden the nerve endings in the skin. Use of this drug on children prior to starting IV lines as well as use on children and adults prior to medical tests that may cause pain to the skin is common. Use of Tetracaine in non-medical settings is also common such as in laser hair removal procedures. The advice of a medical doctor is preferred to avoid potentially dangerous situations.

Tetracaine should be used in amounts necessary to relieve pain in the affected area, no more and no less. Tetracaine should not be used on large areas of skin or on skin that is injured in any way including via sunburn, abrasions, cuts or other injuries. Do not apply Tetracaine with heat and do not cover with bandages or wrappings. Misuse of Tetracaine could cause potentially fatal overdose symptoms.

Tetracaine topical should not be applied with any other topical medication, unless specifically instructed by your healthcare provider. No specific warnings are given for pregnant women, breastfeeding women, elderly patients or children with regard to safety or effectiveness, so these groups should consult their doctors as to specific use instructions for Tetracaine.

If you have any drug allergies, it is important to inform your doctor before treatment with Tetracaine. It is also important to disclose all information on prescription, non-prescription, vitamin, herbal and holistic remedies you are using prior to being treated with Tetracaine. Patients who have brain, spinal or eye problems or problems with their heart or blood vessels should use Tetracaine with caution. Infections at or near the application site along with broken skin, large sores or severe injuries are not recommended for treatment with Tetracaine.

Store Tetracaine at room temperature in the original packaging, out of sight and reach of children and away from sources of heat, moisture and light. Dispose of unused or expired Tetracaine in a safe manner, as advised by your doctor or pharmacist.

Last Reviewed:
December 24, 2017
Last Updated:
December 22, 2017
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