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Parents Warned Against Using Vicks VapoRub On Children

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, January 13, 2009 11:56 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Children's Colds, Over The Counter Cold Remedies, Procter & Gamble, Cold Meds

Parents should limit the use of Vicks VapoRub on children after one girl developed respiratory distress. 



IMAGE SOURCE: ©iStockphoto/ mother comforting child/ author: _IB_ 


Parents have been advised to minimize the use of over-the-counter cold medications in children under the age of four. Now add another cold remedy to the list.

Vicks VapoRub, with its strong menthol vapors, may deliver a comforting and familiar warmth to the chest, but a new study says it may also cause airway inflammation that can restrict breathing in infants and toddlers when used too close to the nose.

Doctors at Wake Forest University started a study after they found an 18-month-old girl developed severe respiratory distress from Vicks VapoRub.  Her parents had put the salve under her nose to relieve the discomfort of a cold, even though the company advises against using the product in kids under the age of two.

Lead researcher Dr. Bruce K. Rubin, found other cases in which respiratory problems had developed caused by inflammation from the VapoRub.

But, he says, “Parents never volunteered it, because they always thought it is just something you buy over-the-counter, and it’s not a real medicine, because you just rub it on after all.”

Rubin and colleagues took their research further, conducting experiments with ferrets which have similar airways to humans. 

They found the Vicks VapoRub increased mucus production by up to 59 percent. The Washington Post reports that at the same time the ability to clear mucus was reduced by 36 percent.

The findings are published in the January issue of the journal, Chest. 

Last October, the Food and Drug Administration reported that over-the-counter cold medications should not be used by children under the age of four. 

Drug labels were voluntarily changed to read, “do not use in children four years of age and under,” according to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association

However the citizen group, Public Citizen said that would give the mistaken impression that the over-the-counter cold meds were safe in children over the age of four when they haven’t been shown to be effective in children under the age of 12 .

That would include even mentholated rubs, which may not only be ineffective, but may raise the possibility of causing respiratory distress when applied near the nostrils.

The maker of Vicks, Procter & Gamble believes the produce is safe when used as directed, that is when applied to the chest.   The company says in a statement, “A recent article in CHEST® describes animal studies prompted by a single case report. The animal findings are of unknown human clinical relevance. The safety and efficacy of Vicks VapoRub has been demonstrated in multiple human clinical trials, which have included more than 1,000 children ages 1 month to 12 years. #

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