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Vicks VapoRub Linked to Infant Breathing Problems
Date:1/13/2009

Misuse may cause respiratory distress, researchers say; company says product is safe

TUESDAY, Jan. 13 (HealthDay News) -- The popular cold remedy Vicks VapoRub may cause airway inflammation that can restrict breathing in infants and toddlers, a new study says.

Doctors at Wake Forest University started their study after treating an 18-month-old girl who had developed severe respiratory distress after the salve had been put directly under her nose to relieve cold symptoms.

"The company is really clear that you don't put it in the nose, and you never use it in kids under 2," said lead researcher Dr. Bruce K. Rubin, professor and vice chair for research at Wake Forest's Department of Pediatrics. "Sure enough, when we stopped all the medicine, the child got much better very quickly."

Rubin's experience prompted him to see if there had been other similar cases. "We encountered a few others that appeared to develop problems after using Vicks VapoRub. Parents never volunteered it, because they always thought it is just something you buy over-the-counter, and it's not a real medicine, because you just rub it on, after all," he said.

Rubin said Vicks VapoRub can make some adults feel better without really making them better. "For kids, because it can induce some inflammation, even a little bit, that little bit might be enough to tip over a child to having problems," he said.

The findings were published in the January issue of the journal Chest.

To test whether Vicks VapoRub could cause respiratory distress, the researchers conducted experiments with ferrets. The animals were chosen because they have airways similar to human airways, Rubin said.

The researchers found that Vicks VapoRub increased mucus production by up to 59 percent; the ability to clear mucus was reduced by 36 percent.

David Bernens, a spokesman for Proctor & Gamble, the makers of Vicks VapoRub, do
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