Is Vicks VapoSteam Safe For Babies: What About VapoRub & BabyRub

The truth is, most babies get sick A LOT. 

As their immune systems begin to develop and they start to navigate the world, your baby is undoubtedly going to come down with a common cold or two. While this isn’t necessarily a cause for panic, it can be pretty stressful for new parents.  

And since babies can’t use most over-the-counter cold medication, finding some baby-safe relief for your little one can be a struggle.

So, more and more moms are interested in using vaporizers as a cold/flu treatment at home, and Vicks VapoSteam, particularly for babies, has been dominating the market. That being said, its safety for young children has been consistently called into question.

Here, I have put together everything you need to know about the safety concerns associated with Vicks Vaposteam for babies and some easy (and better) alternatives.

Of course, it’s always best to consult your pediatrician before using any methods on your infant or young child.  

What Is Vicks VapoSteam? 

vicks vaposteam for babies

Vicks Vaposteam is an inhalant pod that is added to your standard vaporizer. It is used to increase the effectiveness of a vaporizer for cold relief use by using essential oils and active medicinal ingredients.

The formula was developed to relieve sore throats, suppress coughs, and help open the breathing passages.

In a nutshell, you can thank natural ingredients such as eucalyptus, turpentine, and cedarwood oils, as well as menthol and nutmeg, for most of this product’s soothing and medicinal effects.

However, medicinal ingredients such as Thymol and Camphor are also added for antiseptic and anti-inflammatory effects. And this is where it gets complicated.  

So, Is Vicks VapoSteam Safe For Babies?  

Long story short, no, Vicks Vaposteam is not safe for infants. Safety guidelines do not recommend the use on anyone below two years old. There are some safer alternatives, however, depending on the age of your child.  

Why Vicks VapoSteam Isn’t Safe For Toddlers Under 2 Years Old

The medicinal ingredient camphor is used to promote pain relief and relieve dry coughs. However, it poses a serious risk to small children, especially young babies.

Camphor absorbs extremely quickly in young children and can cause a wide range of adverse effects.

You may notice that it irritates your child’s airways, increases mucus to the point of extreme excess, or worsens “cold symptoms” such as nasal congestion. Prolonged exposure and camphor poisoning could even lead to brain damage.

Some studies even show that camphor can be lethal to babies.

Is Vicks VapoRub Safe For Babies?

Is Vicks VapoRub Safe For Babies

Some parents might wonder if Vicks VapoRub is a reasonable alternative to the vaporizer version, but it is not. The active ingredient, camphor, is consistent between both products.

Camphor is also easily absorbed by the nose and skin, which is really dangerous, as pointed out in the previous part.

As is true with vapor containing camphor, poisoning through absorption could also lead to nausea/vomiting, stomach aches, and irritability. On the mild end of the spectrum.

More severe reactions are also possible based on the level of exposure and the age/weight of the child.

It’s also worth mentioning that products like VapoSteam and VapoRub should be kept far out of babies’ and childrens’ reach, as ingestion could lead to very severe side effects.

Children who eat products containing camphor could suffer seizures, liver damage, or even fatality. 

Is Vicks BabyRub Safe For Babies?

Vicks has released a baby version of the rub, called Vicks BabyRub. This pediatric alternative is not suitable for an infant. However, Vicks Babyrub is considered to be safe for babies under three months old or ten pounds.

Vicks VapoSteam vs Vicks BabyRub

Vicks VapoSteam is a medicated vaporized treatment, while Vicks Baby Rub is a non-medicated topical ointment.  

You can apply the ointment by gently massaging it onto your baby’s chest, neck, back, and feet in small doses. This product aims not to treat a common cold but to help make your baby more comfortable and less agitated.

Still, it will have similar effects to the vaporized product, reducing coughs, throat irritation, and opening the airways. Most importantly, this product does not contain camphor. Instead, it is made of coconut oil, aloe, and paraffin wax. 

Vicks BabyRub Safety Measures

Is Vicks Babyrub Safe For Babies

While Vicks Vaposteam is not recommended for any baby below the age of two, the pediatric version, BabyRub, is considered safe for older babies, defined as above three months old and a minimum of 10lbs.

That being said, you will want to take some things into account to ensure safe usage: 

  • Always be sure to cover your baby’s hands and feet to avoid ingestion (baby socks and mittens work great!) and avoid putting it on areas that could easily be licked.
  • Semi- loose clothing is necessary for the vapor to reach the nasal passage and soothe your baby effectively, but do not use anything loose enough to pose a hazard.
  • Make sure your baby is not allergic to the product before covering them in it and having them breathe it in. You can do this by applying a tiny amount to the skin on the back of their hand. As long as a rash or skin irritation does not appear after 1-2 hours, you should be okay to continue.
  • Do not put the ointment on or near your baby’s eyes, forehead, or nose to avoid irritation and respiratory distress.
  • If you have any concerns, cease use immediately and contact your pediatrician. If your child is experiencing a severe allergic reaction or respiratory distress, call 911 and seek emergency care right away.  

Alternative Congestion Relief For Babies & Toddlers

is vicks vaposteam safe for toddlers

Whether you have a young infant who is not eligible to use any of the aforementioned products, or you are simply interested in a safe, natural alternative, we have good news!

There are plenty of other ways to help make your baby more comfortable as they fight off their common cold.

Natural Vapor Rub For Babies

Why not make your own vapor rub ointment for your baby? This way, you know exactly what you are putting on their skin. All you need is:

  • Two tablespoons of beeswax.
  • Some eucalyptus oil.
  • Some coconut oil. 

Simply melt the wax, add a few drops (not more than four) of the essential oil, and one tablespoon of the coconut oil.

Then, it’s as easy as mixing it together and storing it in an air-tight container. You can refrigerate the mixture for a cooling effect, but this is not necessary.  

Disclaimer: Make sure that you are using high-quality, pure essential oils when making ointment from your baby, and follow the same precautions as you would with the BabyRub to avoid ingestion.

In the United States, essential oils are not regulated by the FDA, meaning they are not guaranteed to be safe for consumption, no matter what you may read online.

Topical use is okay in most circumstances, but you can always consult your doctor if you have any questions. Overly repetitive use may cause airway irritation.

Saline Nasal Drops For Babies

Lots of saline nasal drops are safe for infants! After using a common syringe or “snot sucker” to clear your baby’s nasal passages, you can likely use an over-the-counter saline nasal drop.

Ask your doctor to recommend one that is safe for young children, or look at the approved ages on your standard drug store brands and be sure to follow safe-use instructions precisely.

Vaporizers And Humidifiers For Babies

A plain old humidifier will have many of the same benefits as VapoSteam, without the extra (unsafe) ingredients.

A cool-mist humidifier is safe for babies since there is no risk of burns, and the added moisture can soothe irritation in the nose and throat and relieve headaches without the worry.


At the end of the day, choosing a cold relief product that is safe for your baby is of the utmost importance.

Taking the time to understand the ins and outs of a product, safe use instructions, and the alternative options is already a huge success- so congratulations, mama!

All that’s left to do is consult with your pediatrician and choose the cold relief option that is right for your baby. Before you know it, your baby’s cold will be over, and you’ll feel confident that you can make him/her comfortable in a breeze the next time they get sick.

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