Vicks VapoRub May Cause Respiratory Distress in Infants, Animal Study Suggests
When an 18-month-old child was brought to an emergency room in severe respiratory distress after a grandparent applied Vicks VapoRub directly under her nose, clinicians investigated whether the ointment — a mixture of camphor, menthol, and eucalyptus oil — was at fault. (The product is not recommended for application to the nostril or for children under age 2 years.)
Their studies in healthy ferrets, which have an airway anatomy similar to humans, showed that mucus secretion increased and ciliary activity decreased in the presence of the ointment.
The authors conclude that the effect “may be of little physiologic consequence in older children and adults, but in infants and small children this potentially can lead to respiratory distress.”