Can We Use Vicks Vaporub for Children?


When your child catches a cold, symptoms like clogged and runny noses follow. Most mothers go pillar to post looking for a remedy that can give their tiny tot quick relief. From herbal remedies to steaming and humidifiers, a mother tries every remedy that they think can work. Sometimes, letting the infection inside wear out is the best option but few stick to that path. A lot of parents opt for OTC medications to ensure their toddlers get relief from chest and nose congestion. Rather than giving oral syrups and cold medications to kids, a lot of people rely on using a solution like Vicks Vaporub. Vicks is perhaps the most popular and used product that Procter & Gamble’s that has ever made! It has been used by millions of parents to treat cold and congestion related issues for decades. But, is it safe? And, can it be used on kids? Read on to know a lil more on your popular cold remedy!

Is Vicks Vaporub Safe for Children?

Study findings and debates

is vicks good for childrenA few study findings have indicated that using Vicks Vaporub may not alleviate symptoms of congestion and cold.  One study indicated that the product may cause increased mucus production upon application in kids. It also claimed application of the product may eventually make airways in a kid’s nose irritated. While the impact is not threatening, the repercussion in kids below 2 years can be more pronounced. These kids have smaller nostrils and air passages compared to others and if that gets even narrower- breathing complications and problems can develop. The study was led by Wake Forest University School of Medicine’s Dr. Bruce K. Rubin.

However, a number of health experts and doctors have questioned the efficacy and validity of the study. They are of the view, that a majority of kids have found relief when Vicks Vaporub was used. Its application does not lead to respiratory failure or any life threatening complication. Dr. Michael S. Schechter, Emory University’s associate professor of Pediatrics says, “Nobody claims that this medication does any good. When you’re talking about an agent that does no good, your tolerance for harm is very low.” Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine’s Dr. Ian M. Paul also criticized the study findings.

Eventually, most doctors agree Vicks Vaporub offers human brain a sensation of relief from congestion upon application. The menthol in it triggers some cold receptors in the nose as well as bronchial tubes. This makes your brain think that breathing has become easier and sleep comes easily. And, thus Vicks can indeed help a child sleep better, especially if he has a bad case of congestion.

It is needless to mention, that it is important that parents strictly adhere to the safety guidelines that are printed on the packaging. The product is not meant for use on kids below 2 years. It should not be applied on wounds as well.

Ways to apply Vicks VapoRub on kids

You can apply Vicks VapoRub on the skin of your kids and help him or her get relief from cold and congestion fast. The best part of the toddler’s body where you should apply it is the chest and back parts. A thick layer of vaporub should be applied on the skin. To ensure the vaporub works as desired, cover your kid with a light blanket before he or she dozes off. Massage it well on the chest or back for some time, so that the sticky ointment does not lead to stain marks on bed sheet or clothes of your kids.


Older kids can be helped to take a steam inhalation of Vicks for quick relief. Heat a basin of water and add just a tiny blob of vicks to it. Allow your child to breathe this steam in. Remember, that this is something you should not let your child do on his own!

If your child is under 2 years, you can use Vicks on his soles. Just massage in a little Vicks on the bottom of his soles, before or after he goes to sleep. While there are no concrete scientific backing on how this help, millions of mothers across the globe will testify that this does help!

Safety of applying Vicks VapoRub on kids

In the last few years, there have been some debates regarding the safety of using Vicks Vaporub on kids. However, most doctors opine that it is harmless. Pediatricians maintain that Vicks should not be applied near mouth or nose of a toddler. Neither should it be heated before applying on skin. You can massage skin with the ointment for enhanced efficacy. A coin sized quantity of vicks can be safely massaged into the child’s chest for relief from a bad cold and congestion.

It is important to note that just Vicks will not cure a cold. It only reduces the symptoms and helps the child breathe better. If you child shows signs of breathlessness despite using Vicks to help clear the nasal passage, rush him to his doctor.