Vicks For Babies: Safety, Uses, Precautions, And Alternatives


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The common cold is the most frequent illness in babies. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies can have eight to ten episodes of common cold in the first two years of their lives (1). As over-the-counter medications are not recommended for babies, parents turn to topical medications. The renowned Vicks VapoRub instantly strikes one’s mind.

But is Vicks VapoRub safe for your baby? Read on to learn about the safety of Vick Vaporub for babies and the alternatives you could consider to ease a baby’s cold, congestion and cough.

This post is for informational purposes only and not a promotional piece for the manufacturer. We suggest you talk to a pediatrician before using any OTC medicines for your baby.

Is Vicks VapoRub Safe For A Baby?

Vicks VapoRub should not be used on babies younger than two years (2). Vicks BabyRub is an option manufactured by the same brand for babies three months and older (3).

Why Should You Not Use Vicks VapoRub For Babies?

Vicks VapoRub can irritate the baby’s airways and cause excessive mucus production leading to nasal congestion (4). Therefore, you must avoid its use in babies younger than two years.

Vicks VapoRub is a mentholated topical ointment, intended for use over the chest, back, and throat for subduing cough, and muscle and joint pain. The oil-based medication can be inhaled without hot steam. Major ingredients in Vicks VapoRub are (5):

  • Camphor acts as a cough suppressant and painkiller.
  • Eucalyptus oil is a cough suppressant.
  • Menthol is cough suppressant and analgesic.
  • Turpentine oil reduces chest congestion.
  • Cedarwood oil is antiseptic, antispasmodic, and antifungal.
  • Nutmeg increases immunity while reducing pain and insomnia.
  • Thymol is antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic.

Use Of Vicks BabyRub For Babies

Vicks BabyRub gently moisturizes, soothes, and relaxes your baby. A massage on the baby’s chest, neck, back, and soles of feet can make your baby feel comfortable.

The ointment is safe for babies because it is camphor-free. Vicks BabyRub contains aloe vera, coconut oil, soft white paraffin, and fragrances of lavender and rosemary.

Vicks BabyRub Myths Vs. Reality

  • It is not safe for babies.

Vicks BabyRub is specially formulated for babies above three months of age. The manufacturer claims it to be made from natural and non-medicated ingredients.

  • It can be harsh for a baby’s sensitive skin

Vicks BabyRub is claimed to be developed by skin experts, and the formulation is mild and natural. It helps relax and soothe your baby.

  • Vicks BabyRub is a lotion

It is not a lotion but a rub (liniment or ointment). Therefore, a small quantity is needed for application on your baby’s body.

How To Use Vicks BabyRub?

The manufacturer recommends the following directions for the use of Vicks BabyRub.

  • Gently massage Vicks BabyRub over the baby’s chest, back, neck, and soles of feet.
  • Cover the body with warm and dry clothes.
  • Keep the clothing loose near the throat and chest to help vapors reach the nose.
  • Repeat the application if required, but not more than three times a day.
  • Cover your baby’s feet with socks to prevent the ingestion of ointment.

Does Vicks VapoRub/BabyRub Really Work For Babies?

Vicks VapoRub/ BabyRub is not a decongestant and it does not cure cold or cough. Instead, it may help calm, soothe, and relax a baby with common cold.

Vicks VapoRub is labeled as a topical cough suppressant and topical analgesic (2). Menthol and camphor vapors create a cooling effect in the nasal passage, making it easier for the child to breathe and sleep. Vicks has been recommended for the common cold. However, Vicks VapoRub is not recommended for cough with high phlegm, chronic cough, asthma, and emphysema.

Precautions To Take While Using Vicks VapoRub And BabyRub

  • Vicks Rubs (VapoRub and BabyRub) should not be used beyond the expiry date on the package.
  • Rubs should not be heated, microwaved, or added to boiling water. Doing so may cause the ointment to splatter and cause burns.
  • It should not be applied on skin with open wounds.
  • Vicks Rubs are for external use only. The contents of the rubs could be toxic to babies if ingested.
  • Check if your child’s skin is allergic to the product by applying a small amount on the skin of the hand.
  • Do not apply Vicks Rubs on the nose, nostrils, forehead, and eyes, because it can cause respiratory distress and eye irritation.

Alternatives To Vicks VapoRub/BabyRub For Babies

1.Vaporizers and humidifiers

Humidifiers work by creating mist from cold water, while vaporizers heat water to create steam. Cool-mist humidifiers are safer than warm-steam vaporizers for the baby’s use, as it will nullify the chances of burns if they get too close to the device. A few vaporizers allow you to vaporize medications or compounds for inhalation.

Advantages of vaporizers and humidifiers are that they:

  • Add moisture to indoor air.
  • Prevent dry skin problems.
  • Relieve cold, flu, and allergy symptoms.
  • Help soothe nose irritation, dry throat, and headache.
  • Soothe our sinuses and nasal passage by keeping them moist.

You can consider the following vaporizer and humidifier products from Vicks.

  • Vicks vaporizers are devices used to vaporize medications for inhalation. It boils the water and releases vapor in the room to moisten dry air and soothe the irritated sinuses. It also helps reduce throat and bronchial irritation associated with cough and cold. You may use Vicks products, such as VapoPads and VapoSteam, that add medicated fragrant steam to the air for easy breathing and a soothing effect.
  • Vicks humidifier releases cool-mist to maintain the necessary moisture level in the air. It can help provide relief from symptoms of cough and congestion. A cool-mist humidifier is a bit noisy compared to ultrasonic humidifiers, which are silent. If you have hard water supply in your area, then use a demineralization cartridge with Vicks humidifier or filtered water. Do not add essential oils in the tank of the humidifier as oil can damage it. You can use Vicks Vapopads with some models of Vicks cool-mist humidifiers.

Vicks VapoPads are small pads that can be inserted into dedicated slots in humidifiers and vaporizers. The pads add mentholated fragrance to the air for relief from cough and cold symptoms. Vicks VapoSteam achieves the same effect in a liquid form.

2. Saline nasal drops

Saline nasal drops are a popular remedy to clear a baby’s blocked nasal passages. Put some drops of saline solution into the baby’s nose and use a bulb syringe to suction out the mucus. Your baby’s doctor can suggest a saline solution appropriate for use for your baby’s cold and cough symptoms.

3. DIY natural vapor rub for your baby

You can make your very own natural vapor rub at home with the following steps.

  • Melt two tablespoons of beeswax.
  • Add four drops of eucalyptus oil and one tablespoon of coconut oil.
  • Stir this mixture to form a uniform mix.
  • Store this in an air-tight container in a dark place.

Use the rub as an when needed. This home-made rub for your baby is preservative- and chemical-free.

Other Uses Of Vicks VapoRub

Vicks Vaporub can be used for the following purposes.

  • Mosquito repellent: The camphor oil and menthol in Vicks VapoRub may repel mosquitoes.
  • Treating toenail fungal infection: The cedarwood oil and thymol in Vicks VapoRub have antifungal properties, which may help treat fungal infections.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is putting Vicks VapoRub on your babies’ feet safe?

Vicks VapoRub should not be applied to any part of the baby’s body. You may apply VapoRub on the feet of children older than two years. Vicks BabyRub is safe to apply on the feet of babies older than three months. Putting BabyRub on your baby’s feet and then covering the feet with warm socks or warm towels can help suppress the symptoms of cough and cold. Massaging the baby’s feet can help them relax further.

2. When should I use a vaporizer for my baby?

You can use humidifiers and vaporizers whenever you intend to relieve the baby’s cold symptoms. You may use a cool-mist humidifier to relieve symptoms of cold and cough. If you intend to use warm-mist vaporizers, place them away from the baby’s reach. Some devices work with mentholated pads and solutions. These devices can be non-topical alternatives to subside cold symptoms.

When used with proper precautions, Vicks VapoRub and Vicks BabyRub will relax your baby, allowing them to have an undisturbed sleep. Good sleep is key to the healthy development of your baby. You may discuss the use of various Vicks products and their alternatives with your baby’s pediatrician.


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