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Is Petroleum Jelly in the Nose Safe?

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Q. I get nosebleeds when the furnace runs a lot in the winter. I think it is the dry air.

My doctor recommended that I use Vaseline in my nose to keep it moistened. I think I read in your column that you should not put too much Vaseline in your nose because it could irritate the lungs. Is this really true?

A. We recently saw a suggestion in Consumer Reports (March, 2010) that "a pea-sized dollop of petroleum jelly inside the nostrils" could prevent nosebleeds. Used rarely, this approach might not be dangerous.

We have heard from lung specialists that petroleum jelly can migrate from the nose to the lungs. As it builds up, it could cause an inflammatory condition called lipoid pneumonia.
If you look at the label of Vicks VapoRub, a product containing petrolatum, it states clearly "Do not use in nostrils." A water-soluble moistener such as K-Y Jelly might be a better choice.

We heard from another reader, "Please reprint the article about not using Vaseline in the nose because it can cause pneumonia. That article may have saved my life, and others need to know."

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I have been using Vaseline for dry lips many times during the day for many months. Would this have the same effect as putting it in the nose?

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: NO. MOST PEOPLE DO NOT BREATHE THROUGH THEIR MOUTHS, INHALING WHAT IS ON THEIR LIPS.

Is it ok to put Mentholatum inside the nostrils? Thanks.

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: MENTHOLATUM IS SIMILAR TO VICKS. WE DON'T RECOMMEND PUTTING IT INSIDE THE NOSTRILS. WHY NOT TRY AYR SALINE GEL OR ONE OF THE OTHER WATER-BASED PRODUCTS RECOMMENDED BY OTHER READERS?

Boy, that picture looks familiar! Please check your house for indoor mold. I haven't had a recurrence of this problem since I identified and killed the mold in my crawl space, basement insulation and furnace. Because our houses are "tight" in the winter months, mold spores keep recirculating through the filtration system and symptoms are often much worse. Good luck!

I use Ponaris oil which is a nasal emollient. It is available at Costco and drugstores. I use as needed and it works great to keep my nasal passages moist.

Is petroleum jelly safe for eyelids? I know not to get in the eyes. It's the only thing that doesn't irritate my excessively dry eyelids.

Some years ago a dr. told me never ever to put Vaseline in my nostrils at night, as I was doing. Then I met someone who'd had that type of pneumonia. I squeeze saline water in my nostrils to keep them moist and do not use any kind of oily stuff, especially at night, when I'm horizontal.

My lung doctor told me he lost a patient who put Vicks in their nose. It can cause chemical pneumonia.

The best thing to use is Ayr Saline Nasal Gel. It is not greasy and works great!

So is opinion the result of hard data from lung specialists or individual instances of these doctors experience? I have not heard of any instances of epidemics about this kind of lung problem so I am skeptical. I have used Vicks VapoRub and A+D Ointment in my nostrils for at least 40 years with no lung problems. I did not use great gobs though. Only a thin coating is needed in the nostrils. My grandmother got me started on it. She had a broken nose as a child and her ENT suggested A+D ointment - but again that was half a century ago.

Since your warnings a few years ago I have found I use a petroleum jelly based product much less now. With nasal saline gel I must use it 3-4 times per day but once a day with petroleum jelly. I have tried the KY Jelly since you mentioned it and it seems to work as well as the nasal gel and you get more for your money.

Last year I was on coumadin and started having nosebleeds every day about a week before I was having a heart procedure. The ENT doctor said coumadin could make some thin vessels I had in my nose leak. She chemically cauterized them and I have had few nose bleeds since then. I also run a humidifier beside my bed at bedtime and that helps as well.

Because of repeated penumonias and hospitalizations, I am now on oxygen 24/7 and going to pulmonary rehab regularly. The Rn who runs it said to use AYRE and I can't believe the difference. I keep one in my purse and one by the bathroom sink. She said absolutely DO NOT use Vaseline, as did my MD.

Also discovered Neosporin for lips, 3-5 times/day does wonders as well. masl


Your doctor made a supposedly kind suggestion to use Vicks in the nose. However, keeping the sinuses moist with saline spray, drinking plenty of fluids, and alternatively, applying coconut oil, shea butter, or cocoa butter in the nostrils, is a much better and healthier alternative.

My nose cracks (at the top tip) from squeezing when I wipe it (as soon as I get cold my nose runs-I don't need to have "a cold"). I started to use neosporin around the edges and just inside the top of the nostril. Have y'all heard of any problems with that remedy? Heals it right up.

I am worried about my use of Vicks in my nostrils. I have only recently heard (in your column I think) that it can get in the lungs. I have used Vicks at night, or when my nose feels dry (I live in Southern California) - for over forty years, so far without ill effect. How about the Vicks "inhaler" - a stick for unblocking nostrils - if Vicks is harmful, so should the inhaler be, due to the eucalyptus oil or whatever is in it. Please comment!!!!!!

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: WE THINK THE MAIN PROBLEM IS THE PETROLEUM JELLY BASE. IF THE INHALER DOESN'T HAVE THAT, IT SHOULDN'T BE AN ISSUE. SEVERAL OTHER READERS HAVE SUGGESTED WATER-BASED ALTERNATIVES.

To Wes,
The info was from my pulmonologist. I did write Vaseline, but meant Vicks. Actually neither should be used. Petroleum jelly in any form should not be used in the nose. And there are Rx saline sprays but if allergies aren't involved, the AYR nasal spray in easy, inexpensive, not messy and not harmful. The pollens are just beginning here and will probably need to switch to the RX saline spray.

In the shower, I cup water in my hand and sniff it up. Two or three times and it's an easy way to soften and clean the nasal passages. You can actually blow your nose this way. "Dr. Oz" suggests a "neti pot" but I find when it runs through the nasal cavities, it's a bit abrasive for me. I am sure it's great for others. The shower, vaporizer, plenty of fluids, and Ayr. Remember to clean the vaporizer frequently so there is no buildup of bacteria.

My primary care doctor recommended petroleum jelly, but I switched to Ayr Nasal gel and Simply Saline, recommended by my ENT doctor, to help relieve my dry nasal passage and frequent nosebleeds. Works great.

Wow that's scary. For about 50 years I have been putting Vaseline on my lips every night before bed. no more now. Now I use a beeswax products stick with mint.

I'm wondering if anyone has any comments regarding the use of Lansinoh (lanolin) in the nares? Many CPAP users who have Sleep Apnea apply this product, designed for nipples of nursing mothers, in and around the opening of the nostrils - or - a thin coat on the nasal pillow which goes inside the nostrils.

After using it for almost a year, I'm sneezing a lot during the day as well as have constant dripping from my nose - similar to an allergy. It has lasted 4-5 months as a daily occurrence. It couldn't be dust in the house because it happens wherever I go. It's also not seasonal since it started early Fall and has lasted through the Winter.

I'm wondering if it might also cause problems in the respiratory tract similar to petroleum.

My eye lids itch and are dry. My eye Dr. recommended petroleum jelly but it doesn't help much and blurs my vision. I had been using mink concentrate with vitamin E. Is this OK for my eye lids? It does get in my eyes.

My husband uses a CPAP machine with a full face mask. He has recently begun to have sneezing attacks for no apparent reason. No allergy, no cold, etc. We live in S.E. Florida, and although this has been an unusually cold winter for us, we can find no reason for these attacks, unless the now constant use of our heater is the cause. He does not use anything in his nostrils, but your note did peak my interest. He uses his CPAP with a humidifier, do you? I am wondering if other CPAP uses have this sneezing issue. He usually takes an antihistamine when it occurs. Would be interested in your comments. Thank-you.

I went to the hospital for something unrelated and as result of an xray and ct scan they found 5 nodules in my lungs. I met with a Pulmonologist on Friday, and after I mentioned that I put Vick's in my nostrils every night and have for about 10 years, and him looking at my CT scans, he diagnosed me with Lipoid Pneumonia. I should mention I am 41 and in very good health. This was quite a surprise. I though it was important to share.

I am an L.P.N. and was taught at school to never use Vaseline anywhere on your face. That the risk out weighed the benefits of its use, such as chapped lips, dry nose, or dry skin in general. We were taught that the pneumonia caused by Vaseline sits in your lungs and that antibiotics can not breakdown the Vaseline, leading to the following inflammation as described on this page. Also, people on oxygen, should stay away from use of Vaseline on their face, though rare, a spark could ignite and burn their face, or worse.

I've been using baby oil to remove eye make up for over 40 years. I've always had a chronic cough, thick phlegm, and sinus drainage for 30 years which is progressively getting worse. Allergy Rxs, inhalers don't help.

Neti pot has little improvement. I've noticed in the past if I would use any ointments around my eyes, my eyes would become very red, dry and sandy and I keep coughing. Also if I use Vaseline/baby oil in winter applied to my skin after showers break me out into a rash. Now I'm wondering if the baby oil is the culprit of my chronic cough and sinus drainage?? How does one get tested by the doctor for the Lipoid pneumonia??

I can't speak for nose problems but I do know that if you drink water and stay hydrated through out the day your lips wont need all that lip gloss and chapstick stuff. Hydration is the key here, drink lots of water if your urine is clear you are hydrated if its a darker yellow your not hydrated.

3 years ago I saw my primary care doctor as my nose sometimes bled at night. She said it was probably the dryness due to heater at night and suggested I use saline solution and Vaseline around the outer edges of the nose to keep it moist. I've been doing this since, however since I read your article last year suggesting K-Y Jelly might be a better alternative than petroleum jelly, I decided to switch. I found Walmart's Equate lubricating jelly was much cheaper and the ingredients are the same so I've used it since. I've had very little nosebleed since. However, I notice in the morning that sometimes the jelly has formed into tiny small balls. I wonder if I inhale some during sleep if it will be the same as petroleum jelly?

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: BECAUSE K-Y JELLY IS WATER-SOLUBLE, ONE NEED NOT WORRY ABOUT PETROLEUM PNEUMONITIS.

My son has been having nose bleeds so I had him put some Vaseline in his nose to help out. Now I am terrified that I just poisoned him by doing so he is an asthmatic so I pray I didn't do anything wrong. Please help.

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: OCCASIONAL USE SHOULD NOT BE A PROBLEM, BUT IT SHOULDN'T BE USED REGULARLY.

My mother used Mentholatum in her nose probably 40 years. I use it because I get cracks in the very bottom corners of my nostrils. Has this been proven to be unsafe? If so, what should I do? I have been having some strange feelings in my chest and coughing, some phlegm. What is something I can use to help me? Thank you

I started having nosebleeds last year and had the vessel cauterized. Last month, the same nose vessel started to bleed. I was told by the ent doctor to use Ponaris nightly. It has natural oils. What is your opinion on this product? Thanks.

I have a Septal Perforation which started with nosebleeds from high blood pressure . Does anyone have any advice about this ? I've been to an ENT specialist who performs repair surgery, but any advice concerning strategies to cope with it would be greatly appreciated. The surgeries available are expensive and no guarantee of permanent closure.

Thanks .

I have been using vaseline in my nostrils for over 40 years and my Ear, Nose and Throat doctor told me it is okay. It has done me no harm after so many years, so I can't understand why there is so much controversy.

My doctor recommended I use vaseline in my nose for eczema. She recommended I do this 4-5 times a day, and I have been doing so for the past month. If I stop using it now would I still have to worry about complications?

I've been using vaseline in my nose for years! What kind of damage have I done?!

I drink tons of water and still need chapstick. Some people just have dry sensitive skin no matter what. Hence the existence of moisturizers.

I read somewhere that Sesame oil (not toasted) is really good for lubricating the nostrils....

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