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Is Vick’s Vapor Rub Safe to Use During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy can be very hard on your body physically. Your immune system is being overtaxed leading to an increase in susceptibility to colds and fungal infections. Changes to your body lead to stretch marks and muscle/joint pain.

Hormonal fluctuations lead to acne and sleep issues. Your first response might be to not treat any of these health issues due to concerns over safe remedies. However, most of these troublesome health issues can be dealt with safely during pregnancy.

Some tried-and-true home remedies and safe medications such as Vicks Vapor Rub and Tylenol can be virtually risk-free.

Concerns About Over-The-Counter(OTC) Medications

Your doctor and pharmacist are excellent sources for information about any prescribed medication, but what do you do with a terrible head cold when you don’t want to leave your home?

You probably have a cupboard full of OTC’s that you have gathered over the years. We regard them as safe and easy to use without needing a prescription. However, when you are pregnant you will need to be pickier.

For example, Phenylephrine Hydrochloride a common ingredient in OTC’s that can reduce blood flow. Your baby gets all their nutrition and oxygen through your blood supply so it can be dangerous if the blood flow to baby is affected. When taking any OTC check with your doctor or pharmacist to ensure safe usage.

Safe OTC’s for Common Pregnancy Complaints

One of the safest OTC’s on the market is Vick’s Vapor Rub and it is also well known for its ability to alleviate many of your pregnancy ailments.

Vick’s Vapor Rub is not a new product. It has been marketed and sold for over 100 years. It is a petroleum-based gel, infused with camphor, eucalyptus oil and menthol. The inactive ingredients are cedar leaf oil, nutmeg oil, petrolatum, turpentine oil and thymol, these are all in dosages small enough to cause no harm to your unborn child if you follow the directions.

Is Vick’s Vapor Rub safe?

Vick’s Vapor Rub can be applied to your chest, neck, limbs, joints, and head. When used topically it is even safe to put on your feet and your growing belly. General guidelines recommend reapplying Vick’s Vapor Rub only 3-4 times a day.

It is not to be ingested or applied to soft tissues such as inside your mouth, eyes or genitalia. There have not been studies specifically testing its use during pregnancy, but reputable doctor-provided lists of safe medication, list Vick’s Vapor Rub as completely safe if used as directed. If unsure follow up with your doctor or pharmacist.

Vick’s Vapor Rub has no known drug interactions and very small side effects such as allergic reactions and skin sensitivity. Camphor, one of the ingredients, if ingested at full strength, can cause miscarriage and is toxic to children.

However, Vick’s Vapor Rub has only 11% camphor which would require you or your child to consume a large amount to be toxic. However, precaution dictates you keep it out of a child’s reach.

Vick’s Vapor Rub is not recommended for children under the age of two and should not be applied to your chest when breastfeeding. Another safety tip is never to heat the gel in a microwave as it can spatter and burn. Melt slowly in a cup of hot water or in a humidifier.

Not all Vick’s products are safe during pregnancy. Avoid Vick’s Sinex Decongestant, Vick’s Cold and Flu, and Vick’s Sinex Nasal Spray. These products should only be used under a doctor’s direction.

Common Pregnancy Complaints and Remedies

Colds and Flu

A head cold can stop you in your tracks. Some common OTC’s can be dangerous during pregnancy. Watch out for cold medication that contains these ingredients: Phenylephrine, Pseudo-ephedrine, Phenylephrine Hydrochloride, Acetylsalicylic acid, Ibuprofen, or Naproxen.

Vick’s Vapor Rub offers a drug-free solution for stuffed noses and deep coughs. It is the vapors from the camphor, menthol and eucalyptus oil that help clear stuffy noses and ease congestion and coughs.

Vicks can be applied directly to the skin on your chest and neck to alleviate congestion. Applications to the back of the neck can assist with a post-nasal drip. Once applied, cover with a thin cotton cloth to keep the heat close to your body. You can also apply the ointment behind your ears.

The Vick’s Vapors can be inhaled by dissolving ½ teaspoon in a cup of hot water and then breathe in the steam. You can add Vick’s to a humidifier to fill your room while you sleep, moistening your throat and nasal passages.

Add a small amount to the water or some humidifiers have a small dish in front of the steam vent to put medication. Another form of inhalation is to put a dab of the ointment under your nose and breathe deeply.

Also Check: Apple Cider Vinegar During Pregnancy

Many mothers swear by the technique of applying Vick’s Vapor Rub to the feet before bed and then covering with socks. Another treatment recommended by moms is to apply some camphor to a cotton ball and place in ears to treat ear pain caused by congestion.

This will not cure an infection only break down congestion in the ear canals. Do not put the cotton ball directly into the ear canal.

Pregnant woman having a bad headache

Additional Remedies for Cold and Flu

Prevention is the easiest and safest way to deal with the cold season.

  • Get lots of rest.
  • Wash hands.
  • Take your prenatal vitamins.
  • Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can help prevent infections.

Other Vick’s products that are safe during pregnancy:

  • Baby or Infant Vicks
  • Vick’s Wall Plug
  • Vick’s Inhaler
  • Vick’s First Defense Nasal Spray

Other cold remedies considered safe during pregnancy:

  • Hot showers will loosen congestion and lubricate dry nasal and throat passages.
  • Non-medicated cough drops will keep your throat lubricated.
  • Nasal strips can provide completely drug-free relief from congested nasal passages. You can use these in conjunction with Vick’s Vapor Rub.
  • Humidifiers will keep the moisture levels high in your room assisting with breathing and congestion. Close your bedroom door to fill the room faster.
  • Saline nasal drops or spray contain water and salt which naturally dry congestion in your sinuses.

Some cold medications are considered safe during pregnancy but ensure you verify with your doctor or pharmacist. Be aware of remedies that include safe and unsafe ingredients in the same formula.

  • Dextromethorphan is a cough medicine shown to be safe during pregnancy but ensure there are no additives and no alcohol added.
  • Diphenhydramine is an antihistamine that assists with runny noses and burning eyes. Be aware it can make you drowsy. Check ingredients to ensure no other medications are added.
  • Guaifenesin is an expectorant. It helps to break up the mucous in your chest and helps you cough to remove from your lungs.
  • Medicated cough drops are usually completely safe, but some contain additives that might be of concern. Ask your medical professional.


Vick’s Vapor Rub does not directly affect your ability to sleep but can provide a safe remedy for some the reasons for your sleeplessness.

Rubbing your feet before bed with Vick’s and then applying socks can provide a relaxation strategy before you sleep.

Rubbing Vick’s on sore muscles and joints before bed can reduce pain and help you sleep better.

The decongestant qualities of Vick’s Vapor Rub will keep you breathing easy through the night. You can add some to a humidifier before bed.

Additional Remedies for Sleeplessness

There are several reasons for sleep issues in pregnancy. These suggestions are drug-free ways of helping you sleep:

  • Sleeping on your back and stomach can cause issues at different times during your pregnancy. Sleeping on your left side is the recommended position. Adding a pillow between your legs will help with comfort as your hips widen.
  • Avoid caffeine in the evenings.
  • Avoid spicy foods in the evening to reduce heartburn when you lay down.
  • Reduce the amount of liquids you consume in the evenings to lower the number of bathroom trips.
  • Sleep when tired. Women feel greater levels of exhaustion during pregnancy. Resting when tired will prevent you from becoming over tired. As well, if your hours of sleep per night is decreasing, as is common in your third trimester, naps will help to ensure you get enough sleep.
  • Studies are showing that the blue light emitted from our computers, cell phones, tablets and TV’s are a direct cause of sleeplessness. The blue light stimulates the brain and delays the release of melatonin which is a hormone that regulates sleep. Experts recommend avoiding these lights for two hours prior to bed.
  • Another treatment for insomnia is exercise. Low impact exercise is recommended during pregnancy. Avoid exercise within two hours of bed because of its stimulating effects.
  • Adding lavender drops to a humidifier or diffuser has been known to assist with relaxation.

The use of medication for sleep issues in pregnancy is debated. If your lack of sleep is causing other health issues discuss options with your medical professional.

Stretch Marks

Vick’s Vapor Rub with petroleum and natural oils, can help with stretch marks. It provides hydration and protection for the skin which can help prevent tissue tears.

Vick’s Vapor Rub can, according to Dr. Doug Willen, “…[help] to accelerate not only the toning down of the bright colors of the stretch mark, but it helps finally have them fade, and usually heals them up totally.”

Additional Remedies for Stretch Marks

There is no treatment found to eliminate stretch marks in pregnancy, but some treatments have been useful in prevention.

  • Virgin coconut oil, cocoa butter or shea butter can help keep your skin soft and supple which may reduce the occurrence.
  • Foods high in Vitamins C, A, and E are shown to help with skin health.
  • Watch your weight gain. Stay within the recommended weight gain parameters so your skin won’t stretch as far. Recommended weight charts are based on your pre-pregnancy BMI or check with your doctor.

Fungal infections

Pregnancy can make you more aware of the health of your feet. If you suspect a toe fungus when you are pregnant there are not many recommended oral remedies.

Vick’s Vapor Rub can be a safe way to treat the infection. Rub the ointment on your toes and within days your nails will turn a dark color. This indicates the death of the fungus. Your toe nail will grow out and you can trim off the dark nail. This treatment should continue for at least two weeks to ensure a complete cure.

Additional Remedies for Fungal Infections

Oral treatments for fungal infections need to be prescribed by your doctor. Most topical applications are permissible in pregnancy. If you find the Vick’s Vapor Rub did not alleviate your symptoms, another safe option is to apply Tea Tree Oil topically.

Sore Muscles and Joints

As your belly grows, so does the strain on your joints and muscles. Pain can cause disruptions in sleep and make you avoid certain activities. Most pain medications are not recommended during pregnancy. Do not take Ibuprofen (Motrin), Acetylsalicylic Acid (Aspirin) or Naproxen (Aleve).

Vick’s Vapor rub can provide a drug-free solution to your pain issues. The medicinal ingredients cause an increase in circulation where applied and can have a cooling effect. Just apply ointment to the area and, if desired, you can cover with a light cloth to hold in heat.

Additional Remedies for Sore Muscles and Joints

Here are some additional safe treatments for the aches and pains of pregnancy:

  • Tylenol, when used as directed, is a very safe drug. Ensure there are no other ingredients in the formulation and do not exceed the recommended dosage.
  • Heat and Ice packs when alternated at 10-minute intervals can be a very effective pain reliever and assist with swelling.
  • Light exercise and stretching will keep your muscles and joints relaxed.
  • Rest might seem impossible with work and family demands. It is important to remember your body will require more rest during pregnancy. Stopping when you experience pain is a smart decision for you and the baby.
  • Footwear can put a huge strain on your hips, knees and back. This is not the time for cute pumps and flashy flats. Look for a pair of orthopedic sandals and you may notice a reduction in your pain levels.
  • Proper posture while sitting, standing, and sleeping will reduce joint and muscle pain. Your centre of gravity changes over the course of your pregnancy so be aware of how you are standing. Try to avoid curving your back and thrusting your belly forward. Ergonomic tools can help if you sit for many hours. Changing positions often, taking breaks, and going for short walks will help as well. Use a pillow between your knees while you sleep to take pressure off your hip joints.
  • Omega 3’s are well known for joint and muscle health. There are many OTC Omega’s but depending on the source they may not be healthy during pregnancy. The safest route is to add salmon to your weekly diet.


The changes in hormones during pregnancy can cause acne. Most oral acne medications are strictly prohibited during pregnancy.

Vick’s Vapor Rub can be applied directly to any blemish and left over-night. The antibacterial action of the ointment will reduce swelling, redness and shorten healing time.

Additional Remedies for Acne

There are other safe remedies for acne:

  • Apple cider Vinegar on a cotton ball and dabbed on your skin can help with acne. It is also a natural remedy for heartburn.
  • Baking soda dries any oily patches and assists with healing. Make a paste and apply to your face like a mask.
  • Citrus juice can be applied to the skin with a cotton ball.
  • Honey has natural antibacterial qualities. Apply to blemishes and let dry.
  • Coconut oil, also good for stretch marks, will help with any pregnancy acne.

Additional resources

There is a huge movement toward natural remedies during pregnancy. After years of research we are finally starting to understand how truly vulnerable our babies are during pregnancy. Check out this site for a comprehensive list of commonly used medications that are safe during pregnancy.


Monica Lawrence

I’m Monica, a single mother who’s raising two beautiful angels. Here, I share helpful and creative articles and how-to’s for all the busy, multitasking moms.