Baby's health Vicks VapoRub

Study: Vicks VapoRub Not Recommended For Children Under 2

For as long as I can remember, Vicks VapoRub has been the remedy around our house when someone was congested.

A new study is suggesting that it may actually make some little ones (under 2) worse.

The strong-smelling ointment often dabbed under noses or rubbed on the soles of feet can be an irritant, increasing the production of mucus and decreasing how fast it’s cleared, potentially causing dangerous breathing problems in infants and very young children.

“In a small child who may be hypersensitive, this can make the airways even smaller,” said Dr. Bruce K. Rubin, vice chairman of the department of pediatrics at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C. “It can narrow them severely.”

VapoRub only fools the brain into thinking airways are open, Rubin said, by using active ingredients such as menthol, camphor and eucalyptus oil that trigger cold sensors. In reality, congestion remains.

“I would recommend never putting the Vicks in, or under, the nose of anybody — adult or child,” said Rubin, whose work is published in the latest issue of the journal Chest. “I also would follow the directions and never use it at all in children under age 2.”

Procter & Gamble, the makers of the 103-year-old unguent, said the researchers are unfairly targeting the popular product.

“We’re not sure that the data that Dr. Rubin has presented is very conclusive,” said David Bernens, a spokesman for Procter & Gamble “We would hate to see everyone put into undue alarm based on very little data.”

Mr. Bernens also noted that VapoRub labels warn parents not to use the ointment in children younger than 2, and not to put it in the mouth, eyes or nostrils.

The study was triggered by the case of an 18-month-old girl who showed up in an emergency room in respiratory distress after her grandparents rubbed Vicks VapoRub beneath her nostrils. Even though the child recovered fully ER doctors have reported a few similar cases, though Rubin stressed reactions are rare.

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About the author

Lisa Arneill

Mom of 2 boys and founder of and World Traveled Family. When I'm not running around after my boys, I'm looking for our next vacation spot!

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