Vicks' Baby Rub Safety for Infants

Updated April 17, 2017

Vicks VapoRub has been a mother's answer to a stuffy nose since 1905. This green-coloured, strong-smelling cream is rubbed gently on to the chest of the cold sufferer and supposedly clears up his nasal passageway so that he can breath. If the sick person is under 2 years old, however, this rub can do more harm than good.

General Use

Vicks VapoRub comes in a small jar filled with mint- or lemon-scented cream. It is a topical treatment that works by being rubbed across the chest, lower neck area and shoulders to release the strong scents. Because the smell is so strong, it should not be applied directly underneath the nose, but within a short range to be most effective.

Vicks can be helpful for children over 2 who are having trouble breathing because of a stuffy nose.

Infant Safety

Vicks VapoRub should not be used on children under the age of 2. It is extremely dangerous to apply this ointment to babies because it can cause reactions that are similar to having a severe cold or breathing problem. When applied to infants, Vicks causes inflammation of the lungs, mucus production and difficulty breathing, rather than relieving cold symptoms.

History with Infants

The Los Angeles Times, among other newspapers, ran a report on Vicks VapoRub in 2009 after many hospitals reported seeing problems with this cream when applied to infants. The reporter following the case, Thomas H. Maugh II, noted that many parents simply reached for the treatment without reading the warning on the jar. He explained that because these parents remembered the treatment from their own childhood, it did not even occur to them that it might not be safe to use on their babies.

Vicks Policy

The manufacturers are aware of this danger and do not try to hide it. Vicks includes a warning on the outside of the VapoRub jar that clearly states not to use their rub on babies younger than the age of 2.

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About the Author

Brittney Horwitz started writing professionally in 2009 when she became the editor of "Mother's Helper," a bimonthly magazine geared toward busy mothers in the New York metro area. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education and Judaic studies from Stern College.