Baby Dies from Vicks VapoRub-Unproven!
Summary of eRumor:
A mother has recounted how her two-year-old infant died after she applied Vicks VapoRub to him to treat a simple fever.
We couldn’t find any credible accounts of a baby dying after Vicks Vapor Rub was applied — but the product label clearly states that it should not be applied to children younger than two.
Rumors that a baby died from Vicks VapoRub began circulating on blog sites in mid-November. Blog posts like this one recount how an unnamed “Mexican mother” lost her two-year-old child after applying Vicks VapoRub to his nose:
A Mexican mother tells her tragedy to warn other parents and avoid someone else going through what she’s living: the loss of her 2-years-old baby.
When she came back from work, she came into her baby’s room. When she got near to kiss him, she felt he had a fever. She imagined it was just a common cold and thought about a home remedy to relieve him. She rubbed Vick VapoRub on his chest, back, and under his nose to help him breathe. She tucked him up and laid down next to him.
She was tired, so she fell asleep next to her baby. Hours later, when she woke up, she noticed her son wasn’t breathing.
We couldn’t find any reports of a baby dying after having Vick VapoRub applied. Given that these blog posts don’t provide names or specific details for us to track down, there’s no way to confirm or debunk the rumor, so we’re calling this one “unproven.”
Back in 2009, ABC News filed a report under the headline, “Vicks VapoRub Misuse May Hurt Infants.” The report told the story of an 18-month-old child with an upper respiratory infection who had to be admitted to the emergency room after Vicks VapoRub led to “severe” breathing problems because it increased mucus production:
According to a case report published in the journal Chest by Dr. Bruce Rubin and his colleagues, the child was recovering relatively well while battling her respiratory infection until about two hours before she was admitted to the emergency room.
When doctors began questioning the patient’s grandparents about what might have caused the girl’s respiratory distress, the only answer her grandparents could come up with was that they had rubbed Vicks VapoRub under the child’s nose earlier that day.
“Sure enough, we demonstrated that the Vicks produced increased mucous in the patient’s airway, which was already inflamed and narrowed because of her respiratory infection,” Rubin explained.
To confirm that the menthol-containing rub was responsible for the patient’s respiratory stress, researchers tested the product on ferrets. Indeed, they found that exposure to VapoRub increased mucous production, thereby causing inflammation in the rodents’ airways.
But Rubin said the case should be viewed as “an isolated incident” and that the product clearly states it shouldn’t be used on children younger than two. And Rubin said people should never apply VapoRub to the nose area.
A spokesperson for Proctor and Gamble, the company that makes Vicks VapoRub, told CBC News as much back in 2009:
Crystal Harrel, a spokesperson for Procter and Gamble in Cincinnati, said complaints are rare and the product is sound.
“Vicks VapoRub has a long-standing history of being safe and effective when used according to package directions. Where marketed, it is in compliance with the applicable health and safety regulations.”
In the end, the report of a baby dying from Vicks VapoRub is unproven, but parents should always follow product label instructions and never apply it to children younger than two.