Warning against use of Vicks VapoRub in babies and toddlers
Is there no end to the bad news in connection with cough and cold medicines? And it’s not only the syrups that we know which are in question here. The safety issues concern chest rubs and salves as well.
A recent article in the January issue of the journal CHEST, the journal of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) reported that Vicks VapoRub “may stimulate production and airway inflammation”, that can induce respiratory distress in infants and toddlers under the age of 2. The salve contains substances that irritate the airway passages. These irritants cause mucus production, which unfortunately in young children whose airways are much narrower than those of adults, can have some serious consequences, according to the report by researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston Salem, NC.
To be fair, the current labeling of Vicks VapoRub specifically warns against the use of the product in children under the age of two. However, many parents tend to forget to read the labels before using seemingly innocuous medications such as a chest rub, which I am sure, is a fixture in many households.
Many of us grew up with Vicks VapoRub. I can still remember that nice menthol smell in my nose and the coolness on my chest every time my mom used it to ease my stuff nose. Who would have thought that this for-external-use only decongestant could present a danger to little children? The researchers reported that although application of decongestants may seem make you feel better, it actually doesn’t relieve the congestion. They discourage the practice of applying the salve under the nose or inside the nostrils. They also emphasize that although only Vicks VaporRub was tested, their warnings may also be valid to other decongestant rubs with similar ingredients.
I never used Vicks VapoRub on my kids because my German pharmacist discouraged its use on little babies. What I used (and is still using) are nose sprays made from sterile saline solution or seawater.