Most pregnancies span three seasons, and with season changes come the common cold, which plagues most people. Vicks VapoRub is acclaimed to be an excellent all-around remedy for colds, among other ailments, and rightfully so, as it is one of the most widely used treatments to get rid of the sniffles. However, there seems to be some controversy about whether it’s actually safe for pregnant women to use Vicks VapoRub. At a glance, the majority favor Vicks VapoRub as safe to use for pregnant women; however, there are circumstances where caution is advised.
This article will dig into the controversy and find out what all the fuss is about.
Pregnant women and colds
Pregnancy brings on many changes in your body, and as we all know, our immune system reacts to change in its usual protective manner.
Many healthy people kick the common cold in a few days, but pregnancy brings on a new dilemma.
What happens in a woman’s body during pregnancy is remarkable because where the immune system will fight any foreign development in the body, it will allow a baby to form unhindered in your belly.
This is because pregnancy suppresses the immune system to prevent it from rejecting the little life starting out in your belly.
A suppressed immune system means that you will be more susceptible to infections and illnesses.
This means that even if you are fit and healthy, you will still be a prime candidate for the cold virus. It also means that you may suffer longer than normal with symptoms like a stuffed or runny nose, sore throat, or cough.
Without treatment, a cold can quickly escalate into a more severe illness like pneumonia, which can devastatingly affect you and your baby.
A stuffy nose during pregnancy does not necessarily mean that you’re coming down with a cold. Instead, a condition called pregnancy rhinitis could be the reason for that stuffy nose.
Nasal congestion is a common cold symptom, but it is also a symptom of pregnancy rhinitis that develops in about the second month of pregnancy.
Pregnancy rhinitis is caused by hormonal changes and increased blood flow during pregnancy.
An increase in your estrogen level may cause the linings of your nasal passages to swell, and more mucus will be produced, causing a stuffy nose. With increased blood flow, the tiny blood vessels in your nose may swell and cause congestion.
The symptoms of pregnancy rhinitis are narrowed down to a congested or runny nose. If you have other symptoms like a sore throat, coughing, sneezing, swollen glands, aches and pains, or fever, then it’s definitely not pregnancy rhinitis.
Sinusitis can be mistaken for pregnancy rhinitis, but it has a range of symptoms: fever, headaches, facial pain, green or yellow mucus, reduced sense of smell, and pressure, especially when you bend forward.
So, the rule of thumb is to identify symptoms, and because you are pregnant, it’s always best to follow your doctor’s advice on medication and treatment.
If you do develop pregnancy rhinitis, using Vicks VapoRub will not help clear up the condition as it will remain throughout your pregnancy. It will clear up naturally and be gone in about two weeks after childbirth.
Having said this, you can treat pregnancy rhinitis to ease the condition.
Here is what you can do:
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids.
- Elevate your head when you lie down to rest.
- Take a warm shower or bath and spend time in the steam-filled bathroom.
- To ease congestion, you can use saline nose drops or spray.
- Increase moisture in the air with a humidifier.
- Light exercises should be part of your daily routine.
- Avoid cigarette smoke, alcohol, paint or chemical fumes that will irritate your nasal passage.
Speak to your doctor about using Vicks VapoRub as part of your treatment plan.
The controversy about Vicks VapoRub lies in the ingredients. Camphor is the big concern out of the list of Vicks VapoRub ingredients.
Camphor oil is extracted from camphor trees but is currently made from turpentine. It is used in creams and topically applied to relieve pain, chest congestion, and inflammatory conditions. Camphor is said to have antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties; however, it is toxic.
In 1983, the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) set a legal limit of 11% camphor per volume, and Vicks VapoRub contains 4.8% camphor, which is well within the legal requirement.
The camphor debate doesn’t stop there. Researchers say that there is no scientific proof to back up claims that Vicks VapoRub makes breathing easier.
In fact, a study shows that smearing Vicks VapoRub directly under your nostrils actually makes it harder to breathe. Menthol, another ingredient in Vicks VapoRub, also makes it harder to breathe.
The answer lies in the details, and Vicks has specific instructions on their products as well as their website that specifically state the following:
- Vicks should not be used on young children under 2 years old.
- Vicks should not be placed under the nose of children or adults.
The company Procter & Gamble has taken educating users of their products very seriously, which is in line with product safety standards.
On their website, they outline how not to use Vicks VapoRub:
- By mouth. In other words, don’t ingest it.
- With tight bandages.
- In nostrils.
- On wounds or damaged skin.
Furthermore, a cautionary note advises users to contact their doctor if they have a persisting cough that lasts more than seven days, a chronic cough that produces a lot of phlegm, or is related to asthma, emphysema, or other lung diseases.
The company also advises against heating the product up and strongly warns of the dangers of poisoning if ingested.
Interestingly, there is a baby-safe Vicks product containing no camphor that can be used on infants older than 3 months. There is mention if it will be effective on adults as well, so this is something you can chat to your doctor about.
Is Vicks VapoRub safe to use?
Camphor, like menthol, has a very strong overpowering odor that may cause doubt about the percentage used in the product. Let’s look at Vicks VapoRub’s safety record before we jump to conclusions.
No deaths from Vicks VapoRub have been verified and recorded throughout the world.
A report that a 2-year-old toddler passed away after the mother smeared Vicks VapoRub on his body and under his nose was fact-checked, and no evidence was found to back up the claim.
One can understand the need to have factual information about any medicine, therapy, or treatment.
Medical doctors may advise some pregnant moms to use Vicks VapoRub but stipulate conditions and frequency of use while also taking the mom’s medical condition and history into account.
In a controlled use situation prescribed by a medical professional, we can all agree that the recommendations must be safe.
This is not to say that if using Vicks VapoRub is safe for my neighbor, it must be safe for me.
If pregnant, I should still check with my doctor to ensure that I can use the product and, more importantly, how I should use the product and at what frequency.
This rule should apply to all over-the-counter medications and treatments.
What dose of camphor is toxic for an adult?
A toxic dose of camphor for an adult will be about 2 to 4 grams. Read about camphor in this article.
What natural remedies are safe for a cold while pregnant?
Rest and a lot of liquids. Try hot fluids like soups, decaffeinated tea, or saline nose drops will all help with congestion. A cold compress can help with headaches and muscle pain. All these recommendations are safe throughout your pregnancy.
Is the camphor content of Vicks VapoRub considered safe for pregnant women?
The answer is a conditional yes. Although the amount of camphor in Vicks VapoRub is minimal and will most likely not affect a mom or her unborn baby in any negative way, it is still best to exercise caution and run it by your doctor if you are thinking of using the product while pregnant.
Dealing with cold symptoms while pregnant can look like an uphill battle, but there are many ways to beat the sniffs.
Moms have to consider their baby’s development and, much like you will avoid shellfish during pregnancy, so should you be cautious about candidly using everyday remedies like Vicks VapoRub.
Doctors recommend using Vicks VapoRub while pregnant, but the use is usually limited and conditional relative to the mom’s physical condition and medical history.
Alternatively, natural remedies like using saline nose drops, eating healthy, having enough rest, and taking in adequate liquids all contribute to dealing with the common cold while giving you peace of mind knowing your baby will not be negatively affected in any way.