Is Vicks Vaporub safe for infants and kids? A new study wants to know.

Vicks Vaporub is one of those products that has caused controversy for years in the child health world. While some parents swear by it for helping relieve their children’s nasal congestion caused by typical colds and flus, there’s been a lingering concern about safety in the medical profession.

A Wake Forest University study published in Chest shows that Vicks vaporub may increase mucous in the nose and respiratory passages. If this is found to be true, the increased mucous could cause serious respiratory distress in small children and infants.

As reported by the Dayton Business Journal, the study was done after Dr. Bruce Rubin treated an infant who had significant respiratory distress after Vicks Vaporub was placed under his nose. A similar study on ferrets also showed an increase in nasal mucous production.

Procter and Gamble, the makers of Vicks, claim its studies show that Vicks is safe in infants and children, although they do not recommend the product for children under 2 years of age.

I find the data very compelling and do not feel this product is appropriate for children under the age of 2 years of age. Part of my reasoning is we’ve already seen significant issues with a similar product in patch form in 2006 – the Triaminic vapor patch. In that case, the symptoms of concern were very serious and included possible seizures. Vicks Vaporub and the Triaminc vapo patch have the same ingredients: Camphor, Eucalyptus Oil, and Menthol so we have to be realistic that in similar age groups, similar problems are likely.

Perhaps I’m just old fashioned but I am not a big fan of any of these products in kids. Sitting in a steamy bathroom, nasal saline, work for all kids. And, for kids old enough to drink from a cup, soup or tea are great sources of steam.

Many of these products have some folklore or what others may call voo-doo medicine behind them. They have a reasonable safety profile in adults and teens because adults and teens have larger airways. Infants and kids have such small airways that any increase in mucous blocks the airways in considerably ways causing enormous distress, often leading to a doctor’s office visit or hospitalization. Put this way, the means ends up not justifying the end for using products like this in small children and infants and we don’t end up achieving what we hope. In fact, we end up with an emergency on our hands instead.

All of us as parents have a strong “need to treat” urge when it comes to our children. Given how dangerous most over the counter cough and cold medications are in children under 2 years of age, the only people we are really treating is ourselves and our need to do something. Our small children are better off with TLC, time and staying in close touch with our pediatricians for advice.