Treating Cough and Muscle Pain with Vicks VapoRub

Vicks VapoRub is a popular over-the-counter (OTC) medication. It is applied to the skin to treat coughs and relieve muscle soreness. Both symptoms can be caused by the common cold.

There is no evidence that Vicks VapoRub cures upper respiratory symptoms. However, it may help reduce congestion and cough.It is also an effective way to treat mild symptoms myalgiaor muscle soreness.

Vicks VapoRub contains these active ingredients:

  • camphor
  • Eucalyptus Oil
  • Menthol

The active ingredient is the ingredient that makes the drug work. Vicks VapoRub also contains these inactive ingredients:

  • Cedar Leaf Oil
  • Nutmeg Oil
  • Vaseline
  • Thymol
  • turpentine

Inactive ingredients are ingredients that have no therapeutic effect.

This article looks at Vicks VapoRub as a treatment for cough and muscle pain. It also looks at how to use Vicks VapoRub and some possible side effects.

Who should use Vicks VapoRub

Vicks VapoRub can be safely used by most people over the age of 2. However, if you:

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  • pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Chronic cough caused by smoking
  • have been diagnosed with emphysema

Do not use Vicks VapoRub if you have ever had an allergic reaction to any of its ingredients. These include:

  • camphor
  • Eucalyptus Oil
  • Menthol

Do not use Vicks VapoRub on children under 2 years old. Research shows that the use of camphor in young children can cause:

  • Seizures
  • a severe high white blood cell count called leukocytosis
  • high blood sugar, called hyperglycemia

How to use Vicks VapoRub

To treat a cough, rub Vicks VapoRub on your chest. Never put it under your nostrils. This is because inhaling petroleum jelly products can cause a rare form of pneumonia.

To treat sore muscles, rub Vicks VapoRub directly on the muscles. Do not use Vicks VapoRub internally or in a manner other than as directed on the label. Do not use on broken skin or burns.

A 2010 study found that Vicks VapoRub was more than 98% effective in relieving cough, congestion and difficulty sleeping in children aged 2 to 11. It is less effective at relieving a runny nose.

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Some people use Vicks VapoRub for other conditions like toenail fungus or hemorrhoids. These off-label uses have not been adequately studied or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They can even be dangerous. For example, camphor and other ingredients can cause problems when absorbed through fragile or broken tissue.

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Vicks VapoRub helps relieve muscle soreness, congestion and cough. Do not apply under the nose, do not use on children under 2 years of age.

Side Effects of Vicks VapoRub

Side effects are uncommon, but have occurred. Since Vicks VapoRub is applied to the skin, the most likely side effects are:

  • skin irritation
  • rash
  • redness
  • measles

If you notice these side effects, stop using Vicks VapoRub and call your doctor.

Vicks VapoRub may also cause difficulty breathing, especially in children younger than two years of age. There have also been isolated cases of respiratory distress and pneumonia. These cases usually involve older adults who overuse Vicks VapoRub.

Call 911 or go to the emergency room if you or your child develop any of the following symptoms after using Vicks VapoRub:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • measles
  • arrhythmia


Vicks VapoRub is a popular over-the-counter remedy for cold symptoms and muscle soreness. Not suitable for children under 2 years old. It should also not be applied under the nostrils.

Research has shown that Vicks VapoRub can help relieve cough, congestion and muscle soreness. It has not been shown to be safe or effective for other off-label uses.

Vicks VapoRub may cause side effects such as skin irritation and respiratory distress, but this is rare.