Vicks VapoRub is the brand name of a popular mentholated ointment manufactured by the American company Proctor and Gamble. This over the counter (OTC) medication is commonly used to manage cold symptoms. The constituents of this ointment as mentioned on the product label are as follows:
- Active ingredients:
- Inactive ingredients:
- Cedar leaf oil
- Nutmeg oil
- Turpentine oil
It is generally used to relieve symptoms such as cough, aches and pains, and nasal blockage. If you have a cough associated with a lot of mucus or blood or if your cough has been for a long duration, you must consult a doctor instead of self-medicating.
There are two common ways Vicks VapoRub can be used:
- Applied on the chest and throat: It can temporarily relieve cough due to common cold.
- Applied on the muscles and joints: It can temporarily relieve minor aches and pains.
Never add Vick VapoRub to hot water for inhalation purposes. It may splatter and cause face burns. It is also known to clog the sinus openings if inhaled through steam and may worsen the cold symptoms. Vicks VapoRub cannot be used in children younger than 2 years of age. Adults and children older than 2 years of age can use it by rubbing a thick layer on the chest and throat or sore aching muscles. After application, you may cover the area with a warm, dry cloth. The clothing should be kept loose around the neck and chest to help vapors reach the nose. You may repeat the application two to three times in 24 hours or as directed by your doctor.
Vicks VapoRub is also used for various other common (and rather unconventional) purposes. It does not have any scientific validation and can also lead to side effects. Hence, asking your doctor and practicing caution is important. Some of the other uses of Vicks VapoRub are as follows:
- Treating foot conditions such as cracked feet and athlete’s foot (a type of fungal infection of the feet)
- Managing stretch marks
- Treating skin conditions such as acne and eczema
- As an insect repellent
- Training pets
- Fading bruises and hickeys
- Treating minor cuts and burns
- Managing headaches
- Relieving itchy skin
- Relieving sunburn
The use of Vicks VapoRub must be limited to occasional episodes of cough and aches. Vicks VapoRub does not relieve congestion, rather the strong menthol smell tricks your brain to feel that you are breathy through an unclogged nose. It should never be used in children younger than 2 years of age. This is because the ingredients of Vicks VapoRub act as irritants that increase mucus production in the airways. Because the airways are narrower in young children, VapoRub can cause serious side effects in them. People older than 2 years must restrict its use to application over the chest, back, and neck. The camphor present in VapoRub can be toxic. It can be absorbed through the mucus membrane or cracked skin. Hence, it should not be applied inside the nostrils, especially in children. It should be used with caution on the forehead and nose because even a small amount of VapoRub can be harmful if it gets into your eyes. Some studies have reported that VapoRub can cause skin inflammation and loss of skin pigmentation (leukoderma) in some people. You must keep it away from children because consumption of Vicks VapoRub can cause life-threatening reactions.
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