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Vicks VapoRub Misuse May Hurt Kids

18-Month-Old Girl Hospitalized After Vicks VapoRub Put Under Her Nose
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Risks vs. Benefits continued...

"Vicks is not bad. It does what it is meant to do: It gives the brain the sensation of relief of stuffiness," he says. "Menthol triggers specific cold receptors in the nose and bronchial tubes. That is why it has been added to cigarettes called things like Kool. If you can't sleep because you are so congested, and put it on your chest, it makes you feel better. It doesn't open things up -- but for most kids, it doesn't plug things up, either."

Paul says the reason he's studying Vick's VapoRub is that there's little publicly available scientific data on how well it works for kids with colds or bronchitis. While Procter & Gamble is funding the study, Paul insists that the grant is unrestricted, and that he will publish the results within two years even if they show the product has no efficacy.

Craven notes that Vicks VapoRub has been around for more than a century and reports of adverse events remain few.

"This product has been used for years and years and years and there have not been a lot of reports of it causing problems," he says. "That lowers the chances that it could cause respiratory failure. But the Rubin study does show some things that merit further investigation to see if we should be more careful in cautioning people against using it in some circumstances."

Meanwhile, everyone who spoke with WebMD urges parents to use Vicks VapoRub only as directed: on children older than 2 years, and applied only to the chest, back, or throat and NOT to the nostrils or on wounds or open skin.

The Rubin study appears in the January issue of the journal Chest.

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