Vicks Vaporub For Baby

If your baby is under the age of 2, you should never apply Vicks to their chest, nose, feet, or elsewhere. You could try special nonmedicated rub for babies 3 months and older. The blend is dubbed as a “soothing ointment” that contains fragrances of eucalyptus, rosemary, and lavender.

Many parents recommend Vicks for babies, but it’s important to know the safety limitations of using Vicks vaporub on a child’s skin. The company recommends that you never apply Vicks to your baby’s chest or scalp; this could cause irritation and interfere with breathing.

Apply vicks vaporub to your baby’s chest, feet and back of the neck. Always wash your hands before and after applying Vicks to your baby’s chest to avoid transferring germs to their skin

When it’s time to soothe a little one, you can use Vicks Vaporub right over their chest in the same way as an adult. Simply rub the ointment on their chest, making sure that they wear their clothes afterwards.

When your baby is congested, sneezing, coughing and breathing through their mouth, give them a little relief with Vicks Vaporub. The special medicated rub creates a layer of vapors that penetrate deep into the chest and nasal passages to provide soothing relief from cold symptoms (cough, congestion). Do not apply it to the face or near eyes.

The Vicks Baby Rub is a safe and effective ointment that has been trusted by generations. The ointment comes in two forms: one for babies aged 3 months and older and another for infants younger than 3 months.

Vicks Baby Rub on 1 Month Old

When I first heard about the Vicks VapoRub trick for stopping a child’s cough, I thought it must just be an old wives’ tale.

Something as simple as rubbing some Vicks on your kid’s feet and then slapping on some socks would never actually work, right?

I was happily proven wrong when I tried the trick out of desperation one night. All my children had horrible coughs at the time.

I pulled out our handy tub of vapor rub, then haphazardly rubbed a glob of it on my kids’ feet. They giggled because I inadvertently tickled their feet in the process. I then pulled out some old socks from their drawer and pulled the socks over their now gooey feet.

I waited and… magic!

It actually worked. I can’t tell you if it was a coincidence, a placebo, or just plain magic. But applying Vicks VapoRub and then socks to my kid’s feet whenever they are suffering from coughing and congestion seems to significantly reduce their coughing.

I admit that I really hate to give my children medication, especially cough medications that carry a lot of risk. But when it’s 2 a.m. and your kid won’t stop coughing, it’s time to take action. I like this trick because it seems to work well, and I don’t have to worry about any harmful medication.

But then comes the big question: Is Vicks VapoRub safe for babies? Unfortunately, the answer is no. But if your kids are over age 2, Vicks might be a lifesaver.

The benefits

When it comes to Vicks VapoRub, I have both good news and bad news.

The good news? A 2010 study published in the journal Pediatrics and financially supported by a grant from Proctor and Gamble (the maker of Vicks VapoRub) found that the rub may be an effective remedy for kids’ cold symptoms.

The study reports that VapoRub’s combination of camphor, menthol, and eucalyptus oils may relieve symptoms and improve sleep in children with upper respiratory infections.

Unfortunately, this only applies to kids over age 2. Vicks is not safe for infants. The study also found that almost half the children treated with VapoRub had minor side effects.

The other bad news is that this benefit claim is based on only one study of 138 children. It found that parents who applied Vicks to the neck and chest areas of their children reported that some symptoms significantly improved compared to doing nothing at all or just rubbing petroleum on the kids.

Despite the small study sample, I’m still a believer because I’ve definitely applied Vicks VapoRub to my own kids and seen it work its magic.

The cautions

The AAP can only safely recommend Vicks for children starting at age 2.

Perhaps more significantly, a 2009 study published in the journal ChestTrusted Source suggested Vicks doesn’t work and it might be dangerous for infants and children. This is because camphor is toxic if ingested, which is more likely to occur in young children.

The study claimed that Vicks only tricks the brain into thinking airways are open, but it doesn’t actually get rid of any congestion. In young children, it can instead act like an irritant to the airways, potentially causing more mucus production and nasal congestion.

If your kids are under age 2, ask your pediatrician about alternative ways to clear up coughing and congestion.

The takeaway

When it comes to keeping your baby healthy, it’s never worth the risk to apply medications that aren’t 100 percent safe. If your baby is under the age of 2, you should never apply Vicks to their chest, nose, feet, or elsewhere.

You could try special nonmedicated rub for babies 3 months and older. The blend is dubbed as a “soothing ointment” that contains fragrances of eucalyptus, rosemary, and lavender. These have been associated with relaxation. So at the very least, it might help soothe a fussy baby to sleep.

Another option is to release a soothing power into the air. Vicks offers several different types of vaporizers and humidifiers. Use these to release the scent of menthol to soothe and ease congestion for your baby.

Why is Vicks Bad for Babies

Vicks VapoRub is a medicated ointment containing camphor, eucalyptus oil, and menthol. The active ingredients can help suppress a cough and clear a person’s airways.

Though Vicks states on its label that it is not intended for use on children under 2, some people believe that it is safe to use Vicks VapoRub on a baby’s feet.

However, there is limited evidence to suggest Vicks VapoRub is safe or effective for treating a child’s illness.

Vicks also markets products specifically for infants, such as Vicks BabyRub.

Safety and side effects

Vicks VapoRub
Vicks VapoRub may help relieve congestion and coughing.

When used correctly by older children and adults, Vicks is a safe, topical treatment for coughing and congestion.

However, people should never:

  • ingest the rub
  • put it in the eyes, mouth, or nostrils
  • heat it with water, vaporizer, or in the microwave
  • put it on broken skin

There are only a limited number of studies available that have examined whether Vicks is safe for infants.

One studyTrusted Source found Vicks VapoRub was more effective at treating children’s coughs, congestion, and sleeping problems than both petrolatum and non-treatment.

However, the study also found that Vicks was more likely to cause mild skin irritation.

However, it is essential to note that Proctor & Gamble, the company that produces Vicks, funded the research. Also, the number of people who took part in the was relatively small.

study on animals found that Vicks VapoRub might increase inflammation and constrict the airways. The researchers tested this hypothesis after witnessing breathing problems in a toddler who had Vicks under her nose.

Camphor oil is one of the active ingredients in Vicks. There have been several reports that indicate that some forms of camphor oil can cause seizures in young children.

Other researchTrusted Source indicates that ingesting camphor can even be life-threatening to toddlers. For this reason, most doctors warn that it is not safe to use the product on children under 2 years of age.

Vicks offers a safer alternative called Vicks BabyRub for babies and children under 2 years but older than 3 months. This product contains fragrances and aloe in a petroleum jelly base but does not contain camphor oil.

Vicks BabyRub is available in some grocery stores, pharmacies, and online. However, parents and caregivers should still speak with a doctor before using Vicks BabyRub.

Is it effective in older children?

Doctors generally consider Vicks safe for older children and adults to use. However, there is limited research studying the effectiveness of Vicks that is not funded by the company that produces it.

Most evidence of Vicks effectiveness is anecdotal.

How to use Vicks

Baby feet with socks.
Applying Vicks BabyRub to the feet and covering them with socks may help relieve congestion.

People often use Vicks as an alternative to oral medications or as part of their overall treatment for colds and congestion.

Vicks is a topical ointment, meaning a person can rub it directly on to their skin. Parents or caregivers can apply Vicks BabyRub directly to a child’s neck, upper back, and chest, but should avoid putting it anywhere on the face.

A person may wish to cover the treated area with a warm cloth. Otherwise, clothing over the skin should be loose and allow for airflow.

For babies over 3 months old, a parent can apply Vicks BabyRub to the feet and cover them with cotton socks. There is no scientific evidence that this is effective, however.


A parent should never apply Vicks VapoRub to children under 2 years old. For those interested in using a similar product without camphor, Vicks BabyRub is available.

Parents and caregivers should use caution and read all instructions before applying Vicks to their children. When in doubt, it is best to discuss using Vicks with a doctor.

If used as directed on older children, Vicks can be an effective way to reduce coughing and congestion.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.