New warning for Vicks VapoRub

January 13, 2009 3:57:48 PM PST
A new study says cold remedy Vicks VapoRub may cause airway inflammation that could restrict breathing in infants and toddlers. Three generations of wisdoms, 4-month-old Isaiah, mother Sade and grandmother Jane. Jane was a bit concerned about VapoRub being in the news and about using it on Isaiah.

"I used it with my kids," Jane said. "I rubbed it on their chest and put a hot towel on it...I want to know is it still safe to put it on him if he can't breathe?"

For children under 2, such as Isaiah, VapoRub may actually make things worse, according to the study. It found that VapoRub made lab animals more congested, not less. There was also a case reported of an 18-month-old child with severe breathing trouble after VapoRub use.

"Since we cannot use over-the-counter cold and cough medicines for toddlers, that the same should be done with VapoRub for these children," said Dr. Kenneth Gottesman, of St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital.

Since the study was done on animals, and the airway restriction in a single child who reacted badly, it does not mean that other children will.

So if you're going to use VapoRub, make sure to follow packet's directions and not put any in the eyes, nose or mouth.

The rub contains menthol, eucalyptus and camphor, which some feel fool the brain into thinking more air is getting into the lungs. Vaporizers and lots of fluids work better, say some experts. But why the popularity of this product? Dr. Gottesman recalls what some other VapoRub researchers thought.

"They felt that the odor was so noxious, the fact that you could smell anything was an improvement," he said.

Those researchers also found no benefit to VapoRub, says Dr. Gottesman. There are some parents who may put VapoRub into a vaporizer in hopes it will work better. Our advice? Don't use it at all in kids under 2.



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