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Friday, January 16, 2009

Vicks VapoRub can harm children

Vicks VapoRub, a common cold remedy, can cause respiratory distress in children under 2 when inappropriately applied directly under the nose. This can cause a young child's tiny airways to swell and fill with mucous, triggering severe breathing problems.

The ingredients in Vicks can be irritants, causing the body to produce more mucous to protect the airway. And since infants and young children have airways that are much narrower than those of an adult, any increase in mucous or swelling has more severe effects.

Researchers from America began looking at the use of the medication after treating an 18-month-old girl who developed respiratory distress after the salve was put under her nose. They studied ferrets, which have an airway anatomy similar to humans. In the animals with a chest infection, the product increased mucous secretion and decreased the animal's ability to clear mucous.

While the researchers only tested the Vicks product, similar products including generic versions, could cause the same negative effects in infants and toddlers.

Although the label on Vicks VapoRub clearly says that the product should not be used in children under age 2 without a doctor's advice, and not under the nose, the researchers recommend never putting Vicks in, or under, the nose of anybody - adult or child. Also, parents should consult their doctor before giving any over-the-counter medication to infants and young children, particularly cough and cold medications, which can be harmful.

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