Will Vicks Vaporub get your head boiling?

Vicks Vaporub is a popular over-the-counter cold and cough remedy that has been used for generations. This ointment contains a combination of active ingredients that work together to ease symptoms of colds, such as chest congestion, coughing, and headaches. However, with so many products available on the market today, it is important to understand whether Vicks Vaporub is safe for everyone to use.


Vicks Vaporub is an ointment commonly used to alleviate the symptoms of a cold or cough. This product contains a blend of ingredients designed to clear congestion and soothe irritated airways. It is applied externally on the chest and throat area, allowing vapors from the product to be inhaled through the nose and mouth.

The history of Vicks goes back more than 100 years when an American pharmacist developed the ointment for topical use. The product became popular during World War I when troops used it to help treat respiratory infections.

Over time, numerous formulations have been created with varying concentrations of essential oils. Today this product continues to remain popular among people across all age groups.

Ingredients of Vicks Vaporub

The active ingredients in Vicks Vaporub include camphor, eucalyptus oil, and menthol. These substances are typically found in other cough and cold remedies but generally not combined as they are in this product. Yet research has shown their effectiveness in helping relieve symptoms related to upper respiratory infections.

Camphor (4.8%) – Camphor relieves pain by increasing blood flow around inflamed areas. Eucalyptus oil (1.2%) – Eucalyptus oil works as both an expectorant and anti-inflammatory agent. Menthol (2-10%) – Menthol provides a cooling sensation that helps ease congestion in stuffy heads by decreasing inflammation.

How Does Vicks Vaporub Work?

Applying Vicks Vaporub to your chest or throat helps loosen mucus and break up congestion formed in bronchial tubes. Once applied, it sends a cooling sensation throughout your nasal passages and can help numb your sore throat, open enough airway blockages making breathing easier.

The heat therapy generated by the camphor in the product induces vasodilation increasing blood flow which helps to reduce congestion, relieve pain, and provide overall relief from symptoms related to upper respiratory infections.

Pros and Cons of Using Vicks Vaporub


  • Several studies have shown that Vicks Vaporub may be more effective at reducing nighttime cold symptoms than other decongestants.
  • The product is versatile as you just rub small amounts on chest and neck so no swallowing any potentially harmful ingredients.
  • It does not interact with most drugs – so if you are taking other medication for another chronic condition, it will probably not affect its effectiveness.

Plus over generations, people continue to swear by it for its ability to soothe common ailments related to respiratory infections.


While it offers relief from various cold symptoms without requiring a prescription, there are still some downsides associated with using this product.

  • Risks associated with incorrect use – children below the age of two should never use this product due to potential health risks
  • The possibility of an allergic reaction – some people may be allergic to one or all three active ingredients present in the ointment
  • Chemical burns – although rare if the skin comes into direct contact with vaporub at elevated concentrations (more than usual), serious burns could occur.

It is important then that individuals follow appropriate instructions regarding usage. Keep out of reach of children especially when stored at home or while traveling.

Is It Safe for Everyone to Use Vicks Vaporub?

For Adults

When used as directed, applying vaporub to the neck and chest, adult use is considered safe based on evidence from multiple studies. However, adults with sensitive skin or respiratory disorders such as asthma or emphysema should exercise caution when using this product.

There are some alternative treatments available for adults that work in similar ways containing menthol like peppermint oil or eucalyptus oil and can be applied topically.

For Children

It’s not safe for children under two years old to use Vicks Vaporub. Although it provides fast relief for blocked noses by opening airways it has ingredients that can irritate young lungs making them worse over time. If you need something to ease your child’s symptoms, speak with a pediatrician about possible alternatives, like saline drops or a humidifier.

For Pregnant Women

In general, topical preparations like Vicks Vaporub are safe to use during pregnancy as long as they contain within the normal concentrations of the active ingredients. Some essential oils in Vaporub should be limited for pregnant women like eucalyptus oil because of its potential effect on estrogen levels. There have been no reports of negative side effects caused by Vicks Vaporub being used while pregnant; but if uncertain always consult your obstetrician first.

Alternatives To Using Vicks Vaporub

If using Vicks is not an option there are natural remedies available including:

1) Steam inhalation – Placing a towel over your head while leaning over a bowl of hot water breathing deeply for 5-7 minutes. 2) Saltwater gargle – Adding salt to warm water and gargling with it. 3) Humidifier usage – adding moisture to the air inside your home 4) Essential oils/compression therapy

How To Safely Use Vicks Vaporub

  • Read instructions carefully before applying any product.
  • Follow age restrictions provided on packaging
  • Discontinue use if allergic reaction occur
  • Keep away from children and store in a cool dry place.


Vicks Vaporub is a popular product used to provide relief from coughs, colds, and other respiratory ailments. It contains active ingredients that work together to alleviate symptoms of upper respiratory infection. When used appropriately, Vicks Vaporub can serve as an effective treatment for cold or flu symptoms among adults. Yet keep in mind age restrictions placed on the packaging – preventing risks related to young children – and always use caution when treating yourself or others with medications.


  1. Q: What is Vicks Vaporub?

A: Vicks Vaporub is a topical ointment made with a combination of menthol, camphor, and eucalyptus oil. The ointment is applied to the chest and throat to provide relief from coughs, congestion, and other cold symptoms.

  1. Q: Can Vicks Vaporub cause your head to boil?

A: Despite its strong scent and cooling sensation, Vicks Vaporub does not cause your head to boil. This is a myth that has been circulating for years but has no scientific evidence to support it.

  1. Q: Is Vicks Vaporub safe to use?

A: Vicks Vaporub is generally considered safe for most people when used as directed. However, it should not be used on infants under 2 years old or applied directly to the nostrils. People with sensitive skin may experience irritation or redness after using the product.

  1. Q: Does Vicks Vaporub actually work?

A: Many people swear by the effectiveness of Vicks Vaporub in reducing cold symptoms. However, there is limited scientific evidence to support its efficacy beyond the placebo effect. Regardless, it remains a popular over-the-counter remedy for cold relief in many households worldwide.

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