CHICAGO Jan 13 Vicks VapoRub, a common cold
remedy, can cause respiratory distress in children under 2 when
inappropriately applied directly under the nose, U.S.
researchers said on Tuesday.
They said using the Procter & Gamble Co (PG.N) product in
this way can cause a young child's tiny airways to swell and
fill with mucus, triggering severe breathing problems.
"The only problem we've seen is in a small child when it
has been put under the nose," Dr. Bruce Rubin of Wake Forest
University School of Medicine in North Carolina, said in a
Rubin said the ingredients in Vicks can be irritants,
causing the body to produce more mucus to protect the airway.
And since infants and young children have airways that are much
narrower than those of an adult, any increase in mucus or
swelling can narrow them severely.
"The company is really clear it should never go under the
nose or in the nose for anybody and it shouldn't be used in
children under 2," said Rubin, whose study appears in the
While the researchers only tested the Vicks product, Rubin
said similar products, including generic versions, could cause
the same negative effects in infants and toddlers.
Rubin and his colleagues began looking at use of the
medication after treating an 18-month-old girl who developed
respiratory distress after the salve was put under her nose.
They studied ferrets, which have an airway anatomy similar
to humans. In the animals with a chest infection, the product
increased mucus secretion and decreased the animal's ability to
"We were able to document changes that we think explain
this," Rubin said.
David Bernens, a spokesman for P&G, said the finding came
as a surprise. "Vicks VapoRub has been proven safe and
effective through multiple clinical trials. It has been in the
market for over 100 years," Bernens said, noting that the label
says the product should not be used in children under age 2
without a doctor's advice, and not under the nose.
"We warn people not to do that," he said.
Since the initial episode, emergency doctors at the medical
center have begun asking all parents of children in respiratory
distress if they used the Vicks product in a similar way and
they have seen two more cases, Rubin said.
"I recommend never putting Vicks in, or under, the nose of
anybody -- adult or child," Rubin said in a statement, adding
that he would never use it in a child under age 2.
Dr. James Mathers, president of the American College of
Chest Physicians, said in a statement that parents should
consult their doctor before giving any over-the-counter
medication to infants and young children, particularly cough
and cold medications, which can be harmful.
(Editing by Maggie Fox)