Is It Safe To Use Vicks VapoRub For Kids & Its Effectiveness

✔ Research-backed

Vicks VapoRub is a popular, topical medication commonly used to lessen the symptoms of a common cold or flu. While it is generally used in adults, parents could be unsure about using Vicks VapoRub for children. This ointmentiA oily substance applied to the skin to soothe or treat wounds, rashes, burns, and scrapes is effective in relieving inflammation in the mucous membraneiThe moist inner lining of organs and body cavities of the throat and nose. Other indications of its use are sore throat, cough, nasal congestion, minor pains, and ache (1). The active components of this medication are menthol, camphor (known for their pain-relieving and cough suppressing actions), and eucalyptus oil (known for controlling cough) (2). Browse through this post to learn about the benefits, precautions, and more about using Vicks VapoRub for kids.

In This Article

Is It Safe To Use Vicks VapoRub For Children?

According to the packaging information submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA), Vicks VapoRub may be used for children over two years of age, and never for infants younger than two years (2).

However, there are two other variants of this product that are suitable for kids and babies.

Vicks VapoRub Children’s Topical Cough SuppressantiA substance, such as a medicine, that lessens or suppresses something instead of totally eliminating it Suppressant can be used to provide a soothing relief from cough in children aged two years and above (3).

Vicks BabyRub is suitable for babies aged three months and above. It is made without the ingredients, such as camphor, and menthol (3) that are contraindicated for babies. However, as a precaution, you should always consult your doctor before using it.

Vicks vapor rub

Image: IStock

The manufacturer also lists certain precautions to ensure safety while using Vicks VapoRub for children:

  • It should be used only externally
  • Contact with the eyes should be avoided
  • Should not be applied in the mouth or inside the nostrils
  • Should not be used on broken or damaged skin
  • It should never be heated in a microwave or a vaporizeriDevice used to increase the moisture in the air (2).

Vicks VapoRub is safe for children’s health as long as it is used only as directed by the doctor.

protip_icon Quick fact
Vicks Vapor Rub’s ingredients create a sensation that more air is flowing into the body, making a person feel that they are breathing easily. However, Vicks doesn’t treat the underlying illness causing congestion (8).

Is Vicks VapoRub Effective For Children?

It could be used for cold and cough

Image: Shutterstock

A study on 138 children aged two to 11 years found that Vicks VapoRub (VR) proved to be the most favorable in relieving the symptoms of cough, chest congestion, and sleep difficulty caused by an upper respiratory tract infection. This study also concluded that apart from mild adverse effects, the parents reported that both the child and the parent in the VR study group had a more restful night when compared to the no treatment and petrolatum study groups (4).

However, the study was funded by a grant made by Procter & Gamble, the manufacturer of Vicks VapoRub.

Side Effects Of Vicks VapoRub

Use Vicks VapoRub for children only under the doctor's consent

Image: Shutterstock

According to a study, a group of children who were treated with Vicks experienced a mild burning sensation on the skin when compared to other groups. However, the study also stated that in spite of these mild side effects, the children were able to sleep better than the comparison groups (5).

Also, another report suggested that seizuresiA sudden change in brain’s electrical activity occurred in a child who ingested approximated 50ml of Vicks VapoRub (6). This may not be an intended use, but as a safety measure, Vicks VapoRub should be kept away from the reach of children as accidental ingestioniConsuming a substance through the mouth can cause adverse effects.

Vicks VapoRub has mild side effects, but parents and caretakers must be aware of the potential dangers of misusing it. Always consult your doctor before using Vicks VapoRub for your child and follow the doctor’s instructions on how to use it.

protip_icon Caution
Long-term use of Vicks Vapor Rub is contraindicated in children as it can potentially lead to adverse effects, such as exogenous lipoid pneumonia (9).

Next, we answer a few frequently asked questions that parents have about using Vicks VapoRub.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How to use Vicks VapoRub?

Rub a layer of the ointment on the throat and chest, cover with a warm and dry cloth. You can keep the clothing loose around the throat and chest to allow the vapors to reach the nose and mouth.>

2. How often can you apply Vicks VapoRub?

For cold, it could be used up to three times a day on the chest and throat. For joint pains, it should not be used more than three to four times (7).

3. How long does Vicks VapoRub last on a child’s skin?

The company claims that the medicated vapors of Vicks VapoRub can stay on a child’s skin for up to eight hours (8). However, depending on a variety of variables, such as the quantity of ointment used, the frequency of use, and the child’s skin type, the duration of effectiveness may differ.

4. Can Vicks VapoRub be overused on children?

No. Vicks VapoRub should not be overused and misused for a longer time in children as it can have side effects such as skin or respiratory issues.

Vicks VapoRub for children could help alleviate cough and cold symptoms as an inhaled decongestant in children above two years. However, consult your child’s doctor before using it. Also, ensure you keep it away from your child’s reach since its ingestion could be poisonous. You may further inform your child’s caretakers about the dos and don’ts to note when applying the ointment. Please note that this post is for informational purposes only and is not a replacement for a doctor’s consultation. Hence, do not use any medications without first talking to your doctor.

Infographic: Is It Safe To Use Vicks VapoRub For Children?

Vicks Vaporub is generally safe for children over the age of two years, but it is essential to follow the instructions on the product label and use it sparingly. The infographic below provides a list of precautions to consider when using Vicks on children. If you notice any adverse reactions or skin irritation after using the product, stop use immediately and consult with a healthcare provider.

precautions when using vicks (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

This post is for informational purposes only and is not a replacement for a doctor’s consultation. Do not use any medication without talking to your doctor.

Key Pointers

  • Vicks VapoRub is a topical drug commonly used to treat cold symptoms.
  • It is safe for children over two years of age but should not be used for infants under two.
  • Vicks VapoRub should not be applied internally or to broken or damaged skin.
  • Minor side effects may include a burning sensation on the skin, and accidental ingestion can have negative consequences.
  • Vicks VapoRub should not be used on children for an extended period without consulting a doctor first.

Watch as a medical expert answers common questions about the safety of using Vicks VapoRub on children and the alternatives to it.


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.

1. Vicks VapoRub; The Official Vicks website
2. Packaging Information; Vicks VapoRub; Dailymed
3. Vicks VapoRub Children’s Topical Cough Suppressant; The Official Vicks website
4. Vicks BabyRub; The Official Vicks website
5. Ian M. Paul, et al.; Vapor Rub, Petrolatum, and No Treatment for Children With Nocturnal Cough and Cold Symptoms; Journal Of The American Academy Of Pediatrics
6. Zorina Flaman, et al.; Unintentional exposure of young children to camphor and eucalyptus oils; NCBI (2001)
7. Vicks VapoRub FAQ; The Official Vicks website
8. Does Vicks VapoRub Expire?; The Official Vicks website
9. Marco Valussi et al.;Appropriate use of essential oils and their components in the management of upper respiratory tract symptoms in patients with COVID-19; NCBI (2021)

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Dr. Richard Mario Lurshay has around 11 years of experience in the care of children and their well-being. After completing his post-graduation in Pediatrics, he completed his training in Pediatric Nutrition from Boston University School of Medicine (USA).

Read full bio of Dr. Richard Mario Lurshay