Why You Shouldn’t Use Vicks VapoRub for Children Under Two

VapoRub is an ointment that’s traditionally used to treat symptoms of nasal congestion and the flu. However, babies can develop an allergic reaction or a worse cough.
Why You Shouldn’t Use Vicks VapoRub for Children Under Two
Nelton Abdon Ramos Rojas

Written and verified by the doctor Nelton Abdon Ramos Rojas.

Last update: 09 October, 2022

You probably have a jar of Vicks VapoRub on your nightstand. Or, perhaps your parents or grandparents put it on your chest to relieve the flu.

Its use is universally known. However, its use isn’t just limited to colds. It can also be used for other goals like repelling mosquitos.

It seems logical that some parents think it will also help their babies breathe better. After all, it’s an ointment that’s been commonly used from generation to generation.

Despite this, health experts warn that using Vicks VapoRub for children under 2 years old can trigger more problems than it solves.

Unlike children over 5 years and adults, babies’ airways are much narrower. Because of this, they become inflamed when the child breathes VapoRub or similar products.

When this happens, it produces a larger amount of secretions. Then, their ability to breathe becomes worse.

Also, there are specialists that warn that due to the use of VapoRub, some children can have difficulty breathing even when they aren’t sick. Because of this, they recommend that parents follow the directions that are written on the container. On its label, it specifies that it shouldn’t be applied under or in your nostrils.

Similarly, the tag on VapoRub recommends talking to a doctor for use on children under 3 years old or pregnant women.

If your child shows symptoms of a cough or flu, we recommend the following natural remedies.

Clean your child’s nose with a saline solution

You shouldn't use Vicks VapoRub for children under 2

The first and most important thing when your child has a cold is to be sure that their nasal cavities are decongested.

To do this, you can use a saline solution or sterilized sea water. Then, suck up the mucous with a specialized mucous vacuum for children.

This will help them to breathe better, even though it’s a little uncomfortable at first.

Hydration and saline solutions

To calm a cough, the best thing for your child to do is to get rid of secretions. To do this, your child needs to be hydrated.

This way, your child will have less mucous secretions. Plus, the inflammation will go down. Because of this, your child needs to drink enough liquids.

  • Saline solutions are recommended because of their ability to give your child electrolytes and necessary minerals.
  • This will stimulate their organs, muscles, and nerves so that they keep functioning correctly.

Air out your house

Air out your house

The environment plays an important role in the health of younger children.

A humid environment with dust and even pet hair can cause allergies. This could be both on their skin and in their throat and nose.

It’s very important to keep your house clean and sanitary.

Sometimes, people choose to use humidifiers that clean and humidify the environment when you have a dry cough. If you have any other kind of cough, they are not advised.

If you use a humidifier, we advise that you clean it on a daily basis. In addition, don’t use it too much so that you prevent mold growth on the walls.


Remember that it’s important for children to rest when they’re sick. This is because their bodies need to be relaxed to heal quickly.

When they’re babies, the amount they’ll need to sleep will be greater.

  • For instance, a newborn needs to sleep an average of 16 hours, spaced out over the day.
  • Likewise, a child of 2 year needs about 12 hours of sleep at night and a couple hours more for a daily nap.

Talk to a pediatrician

Talk your baby to a pediatrician

Sometimes, the cough or flu are passing. Daily home care together with a healthy diet is enough to help your child to quickly get over the sickness.

However, you need to see a pediatrician if your child’s health gets worse. Only a health professional has the proper criteria to diagnose a disease and prescribe certain medications.

What symptoms should make you consider seeing a pediatrician?

  • If the cough is accompanied by fatigue and a lot of difficulty breathing.
  • When you hear strange, sharp sounds – like syllables – when they inhale air.
  • If the cough lasts for more than 2 or 3 weeks.
  • If they have a fever.
  • When you see changes in the coloration of their lips and face (if they look blue).

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Noiles, K., & Pratt, M. (2010). Contact dermatitis to Vicks VapoRub. Dermatitis : Contact, Atopic, Occupational, Drug. https://doi.org/10.2310/6620.2010.09101
  • Cordoba Torres, I. T., Marino-Nieto, J., Barkin, H. B., Fort, A. C., & Cobas, M. (2018). Vicks® VapoRubTM intoxication: An unusual presentation of multiorgan failure. Journal of Clinical Anesthesia. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclinane.2018.04.017
  • Dronov, I. A., & Malakhov, A. B. (2013). Treatment of acute respiratory infections in children: General principles and medicine for external use. Voprosy Prakticheskoi Pediatrii.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.