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The negative effects of Vicks VapoRub

Updated February 21, 2019

Vicks VapoRub is an over-the-counter topical ointment indicated for the relief of cough symptoms or muscle or joint pain. This medication contains three active ingredients, which all act as cough suppressants: camphor, eucalyptus oil and menthol. Camphor and menthol also act as a topical analgesic that can relieve painful muscle or joint symptoms. The negative effects of Vicks VapoRub are very limited when used as directed in adults or children over the age of two.

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Skin irritation

A thick layer of Vicks VapoRub is applied to the skin of patients in need of cough or pain relief. This topical ointment can cause minor skin irritation at the site of application in some patients. If this occurs, you may notice that your skin appears red or irritated and can begin to itch after treatment. Such negative effects of Vicks VapoRub tend to be minor and subside shortly after treatment. The risk of skin irritation is increased if this medication is used more than the recommended three times within a 24-hour period or if it is inappropriately applied within the nostrils or on wounded or damaged skin.

Respiratory distress

In a 2009 study published in the scientific journal "Chest", researchers found that the use of Vicks VapoRub in children under two years of age can worsen respiratory problems. This improper use of Vicks VapoRub may lead to increased nasal inflammation and mucus production, which can cause respiratory distress in infants. This medication should only be used as directed to avoid these negative effects of Vicks VapoRub.

Allergic reaction

An allergic reaction to Vicks VapoRub can occur in certain patients, though such a response is quite rare. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include hives, oral swelling, difficulty breathing or tightness within the chest. If such symptoms occur, stop using this medication and report these negative effects to your doctor immediately.

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About the Author

Rae Uddin

Rae Uddin has worked as a freelance writer and editor since 2004. She specializes in scientific journalism and medical and technical writing. Her work has appeared in various online publications. Uddin earned her Master of Science in integrated biomedical sciences with an emphasis in molecular and cellular biochemistry from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.

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