There's the rub: Vicks might make kids sicker Vicks VapoRub, the menthol salve used to soothe generations of congested kids, may actually make some little ones worse, a new study suggests.
Now, not only is this old news, it’s barely news at all – unless you’re a Bajan, and then it might be important information. When I was a child, Vicks was a medicine cabinet staple. (We only knew it as ‘Vicks’. ‘VapoRub’ was, as far as we were concerned, a highfalutin add-on that came later.) You almost wanted to get a slight cough so you could be put to bed with a good rub-down. Then you would lay there wanting to feel sorry for yourself, but really feeling relieved that you had no joint or muscular complaints and had therefore avoided the hellfire blaze of Bengue’s (Benjees!) Balsam.
My sister had a special relationship with Vicks. (That line is going to make her life miserable over the next few days. Sorry, Sister.) She was very fastidious about her bedtime comforts. I think if she could have managed to source a babbling brook and an owl to say “Woo woo” all night, she would have. But since endangered birds and naturally occurring, inland bodies of water were scarce, and Vicks only cost 65 cents from Ms. Alleyne’s shop, it would have to do. It helped her sleep better, so she always had it around.
It was only one night as Sister was inspecting her Vicks pan that she noticed the fine print and read it aloud: Do not place in mouth or nostrils. Use sparingly under nostrils.
Well this was news to us. Surely, that wasn’t always there. We used to apply Vicks like a face mask: extra heavy on the T-zone. We also used to stuff gobs of it up our nostrils when my mother wasn’t looking; and my sister - who was the Vicks adventurer - would put a little in her mouth and regale us with stories of what we were missing. If she had had a drug habit, she would have been the one going “Dude, this is even better when you eat it. Try it!”
But it seems the warnings were well-founded. The above study was prompted when an 18-month-old girl showed up in an emergency room in respiratory distress after her grandparents rubbed Vicks VapoRub beneath her nostrils. The child recovered, but people became so nervous about Vicks that this study was commissioned, and revealed the following:
The strong-smelling ointment often dabbed under noses or rubbed on the soles of feet can be an irritant, increasing the production of mucus and decreasing how fast it’s cleared, potentially causing dangerous breathing problems in infants and very young children.So it turns out that Vicks is an elaborate hoax! Well, not exactly. I think most parents who use the product on their children realize it’s primarily a matter of comfort and not some magical healing balm. But we should all be more aware of what we’re administering to our bodies, even if it does seem harmless and a little like grey Vaseline. Some experts believe the study is inconclusive and alarmist, and parents interviewed say they will continue to use it. So I doubt that Vicks will ever disappear from medicine cabinets around the world. And even if people do stop buying it, my sister will probably be perfectly happy to buy the entire inventory and stockpile it under her bed.
“In a small child who may be hypersensitive, this can make the airways even smaller,” said Dr. Bruce K. Rubin, vice chairman of the department of pediatrics at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C. “It can narrow them severely.”
VapoRub only fools the brain into thinking airways are open, Rubin said, by using active ingredients such as menthol, camphor and eucalyptus oil that trigger cold sensors. In reality, congestion remains. “I would recommend never putting the Vicks in, or under, the nose of anybody — adult or child,” said Rubin, whose work is published in the latest issue of the journal Chest.
The above photo is taken from a story about a zoo using Vicks to calm meerkats and stop them from fighting. This mongoose is a bit concerned about the forced medication of her relatives in captivity. Read about it here.