Study recommends against Vicks VapoRub

Short stuff: Health roundup

Even though most of this generation’s parents were raised on Vicks VapoRub, a new study recommends against using it on young children. And while the study didn’t address products such as baby vapor rubs or vapor baths, one local health professional says these don’t offer any real benefit to children and are best not used.

The study, conducted by researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, suggests that Vicks VapoRub may create respiratory distress in infants and young children. But Dr. Rachel Caskey, instructor of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at the University of Illinois Chicago Hospital, says the study was actually inconclusive when the dose used on the ferrets in the study was similar to the amount used for children.

“We can’t say that it will cause airway problems in children,” says Caskey."But it suggests that maybe this could cause inflammation in certain children.”

Regardless of the study’s results, Caskey recommends parents don’t use any vapor rub product on children, especially those under age 2."Vicks VapoRub, for anybody, really is not a true therapy. The menthol, the active ingredient in it, creates the sensation that you’re having increased airflow, but there is actually no increase. It’s the sensation of feeling better.”

Vicks baby rub doesn’t have the same active ingredients as VapoRub, but Caskey still sees no benefit to this or similar baby vapor rubs or baby vapor bath products."None of their ingredients are going to fix the infection or improve symptoms,” Caskey says."There’s no harm, but no benefit either.”

Even natural products aren’t recommended for young children."With infants, I’d use common sense caution. I recommend avoiding them if you’re not sure, even the herbal remedies. They’re not monitored or controlled by any governing body—do we even know what’s in it? It’s likely these things are benign, but even so, you might be wasting your money,” Caskey says.

When it comes to helping infants and children with cold symptoms, the best treatment is time, Caskey says. She also recommends saline drops and gentle suction for very young children.

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