Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

Font Size

Vicks VapoRub Misuse May Hurt Kids

18-Month-Old Girl Hospitalized After Vicks VapoRub Put Under Her Nose
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 13, 2009 -- Misuse of Vicks VapoRub may have landed an 18-month-old girl in the hospital, Wake Forest University researchers suggest.

The previously healthy girl had an upper respiratory infection, for which her grandparents treated her with a dab of Vicks VapoRub under the nose. In about half an hour, the child began to struggle for breath, and she was taken to the emergency room.

Bruce K. Rubin, MD, professor of pediatrics at Wake Forest's Brenner Children's Hospital, suggests the grandparents' misuse of Vicks VapoRub may very well have caused the girl's respiratory distress.

"It was summertime, and this child had a virus, but she was disproportionately sick and was not getting better despite treatment [with rescue inhaler and steroids]," Rubin tells WebMD. "Juan Carlos Abanses, MD, was the resident in the emergency room and he went back to the grandparents and asked if there was anything that could have caused this. They said she was doing well until they put a little Vicks under her nose, and pretty soon after she had trouble breathing."

Abanses called Rubin, a lung specialist. Rubin had never heard of Vicks VapoRub causing such a problem, but he knew the product was labeled for use only in children older than 2 years -- and that the product should never be applied to the nostrils.

Rubin told Abanses to stop treatment, as the effects of a local irritant such as Vicks VapoRub should wear off. Sure enough, supplemental oxygen was all the girl needed to get better. She was released from the hospital the next day.

"I think this girl was exquisitely sensitive to Vicks," Rubin says. "In some people Vicks VapoRub causes a rash. This was a girl who was sensitive to Vicks, and had a virus, and inhaled the Vicks and it tipped her over."

That was three years ago. Since then, Rubin says, he and his colleagues have seen three other young children with upper respiratory infections and unusually severe breathing trouble -- and whose parents had inappropriately treated them with Vicks VapoRub. All recovered.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

hot toddy
15 tips to help you feel better.
man sneezing into elbow
Do echinacea and vitamin C really help a cold?
teen girl coughing
Get a good night’s rest with these remedies.
elder berry
Eat these to fight colds, flu, and more.
Natural Cold Flu Remedies Slideshow
cold weather
Allergy And Sinus Symptom Evaluator
Boy holding ear
woman receiving vaccine shot
woman with fever
Waking up from sleep
woman with sore throat