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Toxicity Using Vicks VapoRub(tm) on Infant:

The camphor contained in cold-remedy Vicks VapoRub(tm) has recently been linked with liver toxicity in a 2 month-old child, in a report published in the Southern Medical Journal. Although it is known that camphor taken by mouth is extremely toxic, and can lead to nerve and severe liver damage, this appears to be the first liver toxicity report from topical (applied to the skin) use of a camphor-containing product.

Vicks VapoRub(tm) (containing camphor) was generously applied by the infant's mother to the baby's chest and neck three times a day for 5 days. After the infant was transferred to the hospital, and the Vicks VapoRub(tm) was discontinued, the infant's liver function returned to normal.

In addition to Vicks VapoRub(tm) cream and ointment, camphor can be found in other over-the counter remedies including Afrin(tm) Saline Mist with Eucalyptol and Menthol, BenGay(tm) External Analgesic Products, and VapoSteam(tm).

Because the skin of an infant is very supple, it can absorb topical medications more readily than adult's skin, thus leading to toxicity even after a relatively small amount is applied. Very young children can also have immature liver function, which means they can't break down chemicals (i.e. camphor) that are absorbed as well as adults can. This can lead to accumulation and toxicity. It is usually recommended that children under the age of 2 years do not use camphor-containing products. To read this report, visit the website of the Southern Medical Journal at (South Med Journal 93(6):596-598, 2000).

The above information is intended for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the medical advice given to you by your child's own pediatrician, pharmacist, or other health professional. Use of this online service is subject to our disclaimer.

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