Q. I went to the hospital for an unrelated problem that prompted an X-ray and CT scan. The doctors found five nodules in my lungs.

I met with a pulmonologist to discuss this. After I mentioned that I put Vicks in my nostrils every night, as I have for 10 years, and he looked at my CT scan, he diagnosed me with lipoid pneumonia.

I am 41 and in very good health, so this was quite a surprise. I thought it was important to share.

A. Several years ago we started warning readers not to put Vicks VapoRub into their nostrils. A pulmonologist alerted us to the possibility that one of the ingredients in Vicks, petrolatum, could get into the lungs and cause chronic inflammation.

We got quite a few indignant responses from people who said they had been doing this for years. Here is just one example: “I read your warning not to put Vicks VapoRub in your nose. That’s stupid. I’ve been stuffing my nose with Vicks for years and I have never once come down with pneumonia. You can tell that to your know-it-all doctor. You shouldn’t buy into everything that doctors tell you.”

Your experience demonstrates that the pulmonologist’s warning was on target. Thank you for letting us know.

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  1. Dianne M. F

    I never use vapor rub butI was going to use it on my chest and on the outside of my nose becuse there is heavy smoke from fires would that help wit the breathing.

  2. Amanda
    calhoun ga

    I have been using vicks for sore muscles used it on my upper back and lower back also slept with a fan blowing on me now my lungs hurts and my rib cage hurts could this be pneumonia from the vicks or what?

  3. Jim

    My wife at 68 years old was diagnosed with lung cancer, surgery removed one lope and after chemo, she is cancer free (thank God) she has never smoked and since 18 years old was not around anyone who smoked (her father). She did not work around hazardous material.

    So, I was looking for a “cause”. While researching, I came across this article re Vicks VapoRub. My wife regularly uses a small quantity to help her breath.

    Could this be the “cause” I am looking for? I know I am reaching.

  4. RiverFrog

    The reason why I started reading this blog is because I never use Vicks. Yesterday, I put it around my nostrils and on my chest. I did put a lot around the nostril area, went to sleep and woke up with my nose bleeding. When I couched it contained small quantities of blood.

    I must say that I smoke a lot but never had this happening till I started using Vicks one time.

    I’m not saying it’s the fault of Vicks because I smoke a lot but it its pretty weird it happens at the exact time I use vicks.

    • Sharon
      Red Bluff,ca. U.S.

      It’s like a lot of folks who smoke those disgusting menthol cigarettes-those can make your lungs bleed. You are a smoker,so when you use the vicks-it sounds like you’re having the same reaction as someone who smokes non-filtered menthol cigarettes.

      I think smokers need to be careful about how often and how much of the menthol and eucalyptus rubs they use around or in their nose. Oh-by the way, I used to put it in my nose. I ended up with pneumonia. Please be careful with this stuff!

  5. Yomar
    Augusta, GA

    This discussion is very interesting but not surprising, either. I reckon anything you inhale or consume in large enough quantities will be damaging long-term, if that’s not the intended use. My family has used VapoRub for generations and we’ve always avoided potential ingestion.

    I’ve always figured that VapoRub and any of those menthol-based were most a placebo. They’re great for relief, which explains why they’re so popular and so many options in the market. I’d be careful of being overly concerned or doom-and-gloom about the product, however.

    Just about anything with medicinal purposes has some negative side. In fact, I’ve used it near my nostrils and it’s been fine. Of course, to be safe, keep away from your nose. Neck, chest, feet… Those are safe. Avoid open sores too. Better safe than sorry but don’t worry: you won’t die using VapoRub. Ha! :)

  6. Fel aka Vicky

    Hi! My name if Vicky and I’m a Vick’s addict. I know this because every night if I can’t find my little blue bottle I would turn everything upside down. I tell myself that I need it to help me breathe and go to sleep. My family thinks I’m crazy but I just can’t seem to stop. So is stuffing Vicks up your nose safe? At least I’m not the only one that does this. I’ll blame it on my mother because whenever we were sick or injured she would say “put Vicks” so eventually I did more than use it for the common cold. I’m worried now because sometimes I get heartburn and wonder if it’s because I use too much Vicks.

  7. Kelly
    Mid Glamorgan

    I have been putting Vicks in my nose for the last 5 years due to sinus trouble. This last week I have been to A&E a few times through nausea and chest pains. Really worries that I have caused permanent damage. Hospital preformed X-ray and all was clear but still very concerned

  8. Dorothy
    LaGrande, Or

    Can putting vicks in your nostrils cause nosebleeds?

  9. Laura
    western New York

    What about Sudafed as an alternative? I usually like to avoid medication, but that was leaving me running to the ER for steroids almost every time I had a cold because I couldn’t handle the swelling in my throat. So I (reluctantly) tried taking Sudafed before bed during a cold and these last few colds have passed uneventfully. No breathing issues, no steroids! I guess the post-nasal drip was too irritating to my throat.

    • Austin

      Yes if overused, it happened to me quite often by using Vicks everyday before i sleep.

  10. Jane

    I don’t think it is a good idea to put Vicks actually into your nostrils. Using it outside them may be ok. I am joining in this conversation because I have a friend who used to put Vicks in his nostrils at night to help him breathe. He has had 2 brain bleeds/strokes and it made me wonder if there is a connection with the Vicks. I am not saying there is but it is something that a doctor would not think to ask a patient who had had a brain bleed/stroke and therefore maybe has never been considered? It seems to me a bit risky putting something like that in your head? Be interesting to debate if there may be a link?

  11. chuck
    stuart, fl

    I used vicks vapor rub for years for chest cold conjestion. I would scoop a hunk out and put it in a pot of hot water on the stove then i would face the steamy pot take a towel drape it over my head and the pot and deeply breath in the vapors. Im 47 years old and have some breathing trouble but i also used to smoke cigs. Do you think they can tell if the vicks did damage with just a chest xray?

  12. Ron

    I have been doing the same. Using Vick vapor up my nose before bed for 15+ years. Recently diagnosed with LPR, I am wondering if this might be one of the reasons. Does anyone know if the vapor itself go into the nostrils and throat in a acid form that could irritate the actual throat are more? Let me know others you might link Vicks in the nose to LPR cause.

  13. Julie

    I used to use vicks all the time thought I couldn’t sleep without it. Well then I started getting into essential oils after seeing a clients husband get worse using vicks with his copd I decided to make him something with my oils! I made him a rub with coconut oil and essential oils he started getting better less mucus build up and swears it works better than vicks! So now my whole family threw away the vicks and we just use the homeade stuff I make with essential oils! Just wanted to share maybe will help someone else like helped us!

    • Joe

      Julie, would you please share your recipe. I too have used vicks up my nose for 25+ years and now have COPD. I never smoked. Thank you.

    • Janet Mcmillan

      Could u give us the recipe!!! Please

  14. Mariana

    I have recently been diagnosed with several nodules on my lungs this could possibly be from VICks because I have been putting it in my nose all the way to the back for a couple of years now. But now I’m going to stop, no more Vicks in the nostrils. I’ll probably still keep using it outside just to get the fumes going in so I can breathe easy deep breaths while I sleep.

  15. dedicated

    Well I am 53 years of age women ,I was raise on vicks vapor rub, I have 7 children , and 8 grandchildren, I raise my children with it ,and my children use it on there children , I know I became sick I paid over $100.00 dollars for my medicine it was not helping ,my vicks is what help me get better I stop taking the medicine, I do use vicks near my nose I don’t stuff it in there I rub a lite coat in side the edge of my nose I sleep great I go to the doctor like I’m surpose to my doctor knows I use vicks ,matter of fact it stop me from having to go to the hospital ,I’ve had every test done that needs to be done I’m very healthy ,my grandson was running a very high fever I put vicks under his feet with white socks and rub some behind his neck with a lite t-shirt on his fever broke in no time , and did not come back , my son works out and if his legs are shoulders are sore I rub vicks are the swelling go’s down and he doesn’t hurt any more vicks can be use for many different things ,yes some people may miss use it are was never thought the proper way to use it ,I know a lot of people who has used vicks and it really has saved a lot of life’s that I know of ,just saying yes maybe if someone puts to much in there nose it will go up the nasal to for ,but if you just rub a lite coat inside your nose at the edge I can’t see it doing any harm , everybody is different maybe some can use it maybe some can’t ,I hope this helps I can go on and on I’m a true believer in vicks vapor rub and so is my hold family and friends , it’s been here for years and has help I can’t see it stopping now I know people question what’s in it how it’s made but if you think about it any types of medication that is out there you take one thing to cure something and that medicine makes something else go wrong so then your on another type of medicine my husband’s brother had three different types of breathing medicine he breaths better with the vicks just a lite coat by his nose , I get my lungs check also and they are fine cause I’m always around a lot of smokers second hand you know , so this is my story I just wanted to share take care ,hope it helps.

    • BlackSheep
      Kent, WA

      Thanks for your thoughts “Dedicated Louisiana”. My nostrils get dry then bleed easily, few times when I remember I use to rub some Vaseline inside them before go to work to avoid that happens, a few nights ago I decided to put Vick, then my husband got upset saying that is very dangerous to my health, that I should never do that.
      Any thoughts?

      • Melissa
        Ohio USA

        Thx so much for sharing. I have been sick for several weeks, and the only change that I now believe could be a strong factor is my regular use of Vicks starting around the same time.

  16. Sabrina

    I have been using Vicks for about 10 years now, I cannot sleep without it. I joke all the time saying that I’m a “Vicks addict”, but this is not the first time that I have read that putting Vicks directly INTO your nostrils causes problems. The study I had read was only in children and did not cause me that much concern but now I am having problems breathing at night and I am now getting sores in both of my nostrils but I can’t seem to stop! My nose feels so dry without it, I really do feel like an addict. Does anyone have any thoughts on me telling this to my doctor and maybe having some tests done? Now I’m concerned.

    • Austin

      People, use Vicks only when you have sinus or any feeling that soemthing is blocking your nose. Vicks is not a natural health medicine for your routine. Everything has a limit. Well, I am not really good at Chemistry but Vicks do contain certain chemicals and we can’t just inhale the same chemical into our lungs EVERYDAY. So if you are too concerned about it just talk about it with a doctor. (Sorry for bad english)

  17. Pamela G.

    I have been using vicks in the nostrils chest for several years… now, I’m getting very concerned. How do you stop without getting stopped up etc? I am really worried about health problems occurring after reading this.

  18. TJM

    Is been almost a year that I started having pain on my throat and lungs, I have so much difficulty breathing. My doctors have done so many tests without any luck. After reading this I think I know why. I seriously think I am a vapor rub addict, every single night in my nostrils, chest and even my neck. I can’t sleep without it! For at least 13 years every single night but from today on will not even get closer to that thing.
    Hope I can do this. I am so tired of having chronic pain.

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