Vicks VapoRub Misuse May Hurt Kids
18-Month-Old Girl Hospitalized After Vicks VapoRub Put Under Her Nose
WebMD News Archive
Vicks VapoRub Studies
To find out whether Vicks VapoRub might possibly harm airways, Rubin and
colleagues performed a series of experiments on ferrets, whose airway anatomy
and biology resemble that of humans. The experiments suggested that Vicks
VapoRub could possibly act as an irritant causing mucus to block airways.
How convincing are the studies? WebMD asked Daniel Craven, MD, a pediatric
lung specialist at University Hospitals Case Medical Centers Rainbow Babies and
Children's Hospital, Cleveland.
"Dr. Rubin is an established expert in this field, and what they found
lends support to looking at this further," Craven tells WebMD. "By
itself, though, this finding isn't very concerning. If there are harmful
effects from Vicks VapoRub, they probably are mild and only seen in certain
situations with intense exposure of the airways under conditions where the
airways are already compromised."
WebMD also sought the opinion of Ian M. Paul, MD, director of pediatric
clinical research at Penn State University. Paul is an expert in
over-the-counter cough and cold medicines and is
conducting a study of Vicks VapoRub under an unrestricted grant from Procter
"I am on record as being highly critical of cough and cold medicines ...
but the [Rubin] case report is "at best incomplete and at worst
irresponsible," Paul tells WebMD. "Those symptoms they present are much
more likely to be caused by RSV [respiratory syncytial virus]. This child had
the classic symptoms of RSV bronchiolitis."
David Bernens, a spokesman for Vicks VapoRub maker Procter & Gamble,
says the company receives about three adverse-event reports -- mostly involving
skin irritation -- for every
million units of Vicks VapoRub sold.
"We take any kind of safety concern very seriously," Bernens tells
WebMD. "We have multiple clinical studies, with more than a thousand
children age 1 month to 12 years old, that have demonstrated both the safety
and efficacy of the Vicks VapoRub product. So we have come to different
conclusions than Dr. Rubin."
Risks vs. Benefits
Is any risk from Vicks VapoRub worth the product's benefit? Rubin and Craven
point to studies that suggest the active ingredients of the product do not
improve air flow in people with nasal congestion. But there is a benefit, Rubin