WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. New research out of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center suggests that Vicks® VapoRub®, the popular menthol compound used to relieve symptoms of cough and congestion, may instead create respiratory distress in infants and small children.
The study appears in this month's issue of Chest, the peer-reviewed journal of the American College of Chest Physicians, and reports that the product may stimulate mucus production and airway inflammation, which can have severe effects on breathing infants or young children because of the small size of their airways.
"The ingredients in Vicks can be irritants, causing the body to produce more mucus to protect the airway," said Bruce K. Rubin, M.D., lead author of the study and a professor in the department of pediatrics at Brenner Children's Hospital, part of Wake Forest Baptist. "Infants and young children have airways that are much narrower than those of adults, so any increase in mucus or inflammation can narrow them more severely."
Vicks® VapoRub® was first compounded in 1891, in Greensboro. It was introduced in 1905 with the name Vick's Magic Croup Salve. The flu epidemic of 1918 increased sales from $900,000 to $2.9 million in just one year and Procter & Gamble has since marketed the product as "The only thing more powerful than a mother's touch."
The salve is widely used to relieve symptoms of colds and congestion, but there are few data supporting an actual clinical benefit, according to Rubin. Vicks has been reported to cause inflammation in the eyes, mental status changes, lung inflammation, liver damage, constriction of airways and allergic reactions.
Interest in conducting the study developed after Rubin and colleagues treated an infant who was taken to the emergency room after developing severe respiratory distress following the application of Vicks directly under her nose. Researchers sought to determine the effe
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Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center