Is putting Vick's VapoRub safe and effective for kids? Here’s what experts say

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The most effective way to use the product is by rubbing it on child’s chest so that they can smell the menthol from a safe distance.

Most everyone has their own experience using Vick’s VapoRub: there’s no mistaking the comfort its menthol scent gives, as well as the way it decongests the airways. It’s a tried and tested way to combat colds and coughs.

So at the first sign of either, parents no longer think twice before using the product.

The common areas on which it is applied is the back, the chest, and the bottoms of the feet. (The last one may sound odd, but many parents do it, covering the feet with a warm towel for 30 seconds, and repeating a few times.)

But in reality, is Vick's VapoRub really effective?

According to experts, not exactly.

In a Parents article, Dr. Satya D. Narisety, a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Pediatric Allergy, Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Rutgers University, explained why:

The scent of menthol in Vicks VapoRub triggers cold receptors in your nose and upper airway, where you sense temperature and smell.

"It doesn't actually open up airways or break up mucous, but the menthol does trick your brain into thinking your airways are opening up and you're not so congested.”

Meanwhile, according to Dr. Preeti Parikh, a board-certified pediatrician in private practice in New York City, Vick’s needs to be inhaled to make sure the menthol vapors can do their job.

The most effective way to use the product is by rubbing it on child’s chest so that they can smell the menthol from a safe distance.

In fact, in a 201o study published in the journal Pediatrics, applying Vick’s to the chest of children ages 2 to 11 relived symptomatic nocturnal cough and congestion, which led to a better night's sleep.

Did you know Vick's Vaporub can cause seizures and other side effects when ingested? Read on

Where not to put Vick's VapoRub

It has to be noted, however, that Vick’s VapoRub should not be applied near a child’s face: the camphor in the product can cause seizures and other side effects when ingested.

Vick’s shouldn’t also be used on children under the age of two.

Although using the products can help ease coughs and colds, parents shouldn’t rely solely on it. When you think your child needs to be seen by a doctor, don't put it off.

In the Parents article, they gave parents guidelines on when to call to the pediatrician:

  • the cough lasts longer than a few days with fever or a wet, productive cough;
  • your child has difficulty breathing;
  • the cough is interfering with sleep or activity or difficulty swallowing; or it's associated with any other symptom; or
  • your child is under 3 months of age.

"A cough is not always a bad thing and does not always need to be treated," Dr. Parikh says. "Many coughs after illnesses can linger up to four weeks."

READ: Your child may have walking pneumonia and you wouldn’t know it

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