Is Vicks VapoRub Safe to Use During Pregnancy?

Vicks® VapoRub® is a topical treatment that works quickly to relieve coughs and muscle aches. The active ingredients--menthol, eucalyptus oil and camphor--reduce pain and “cool” nasal passages. Many consider the ingredients in VapoRub “natural aromatics,” so it is thought to be safe for use during pregnancy.

VapoRub During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time when women closely monitor what they consume, to ensure safety for both themselves and their unborn child. Informational websites such as state that it’s perfectly safe to use VapoRub during pregnancy. Studies show that the ingredients found in VapoRub may be harmful to young children, but currently it is not known to be harmful during pregnancy.


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As of 2009, safety concerns have been raised about products containing camphor, one of the main active ingredients in VapoRub. According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, camphor products are toxic and especially dangerous to young children. Mouthing or eating camphor can cause seizures. Applying balms or ointments in large amounts and adding it to the water of a room humidifier may also cause children to seize. Other symptoms of poisoning include stomach ache, nausea, vomiting, irritability and agitation.


A Wake Forest University study claims that VapoRub may stimulate mucus production and airway inflammation, which can have severe effects on breathing in an infant or toddler.

“The ingredients in Vicks can be irritants, causing the body to produce more mucus to protect the airway,” said Bruce K. Rubin, MD, FCCP, the study’s lead author from the Department of Pediatrics at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston Salem, NC. “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.”

Whether or not the same side effects can occur in pregnant women is unknown.


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VapoRub has been used for generations and is one of the best selling over-the-counter cold products. The Mayo Clinic states that VapoRub is generally safe when used as directed, and that its aromatic ingredients may help some stuffy noses to feel more open by producing a cool sensation in the nose.


Since information is uncertain about the safety of VapoRub during pregnancy, the best course of action is to talk to your doctor before using it. Always follow package directions carefully–don’t ingest; don’t apply to eyes, nose, mouth or broken skin; don’t use if you are allergic to eucalyptus oil, menthol or camphor.