Vicks VapoRub Harmful To Infants

Filed under: In The News

OK, this is kind of creepy. I am part of a parent exchange group that regularly emails ideas, etc. on the web. A recent conversation thread has centered on Vicks VapoRub, which we all decided was harmful to use on our children. Now, a new report is saying exactly the same thing -- misuse of the product could be harmful to infants. Why? Well, in my online group the thread started with some sort of urban legend forward. We checked in out on Snopes.com (thank goodness for Snopes!) and it looks like it is fake, sort of, except that people really do use Vicks VapoRub to treat various ailments. The recommendation we read was to rub it on the kid's feet, where it gets absorbed into the body and then cures the child's cough.

Doctors have warned parents against using products containing menthol -- an ingredient in the VapoRub -- on their children. A new case study has linked using such products to breathing problems in young children. Now, truth be told, the effects are generally seen when the product is misused. That said, I think we all know, in a world where children are purposefully being overmedicated with cough medicine in order to calm them down, that it would be foolish to assume folks are going to use the products the proper way and not cause harm to their children.

The report, which appeared in the journal Chest, centers around a case study of an eighteen-month-old girl with a respiratory illness who was recovering favorably until she suddenly developed severe difficulty breathing. she was rushed to the emergency room where her grandparents were questioned and it was determined the only out of the ordinary thing was their use of Vicks VapoRub under her nose that day. The VapoRub caused an increase in mucous which blocked the child's airway. In defense of Vicks, the product specifically and clearly says not to use it on children under the age of two and to not put it under the nose. Jeez.

Although it is widely believed that Vicks clears airways, the product never made the claim that it was intended to do so. Doctors interviewed for the article commented they do not recommend Vicks to their patients even though it is widely-used by the general public for a variety of reasons. Dr. Diane Pappas of the University of Virginia's Pediatric Division agrees the product should not be used on children under the age of two and feels it might even get lumped in with the other cold and cough medications under similar scrutiny that will probably end up with a warning label to not use them on children at all.

Pediatrician Dr. Ira Rubin of the Naperville Pediatric Associates in Illinois gives some advice I couldn't agree with more: "Infants should not be exposed to chemicals and drugs unless absolutely necessary." Look, folks, you have a pediatrician for a reason. If your child isn't feeling well and you want to give him or her something, give the doctors a call first and get their recommendation. I'm sure Vicks is fine for the general public to use -- when used properly -- just not for babies.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.