Is Vicks safe to use when pregnant?
Vicks Vaporub, Vicks First Defence Nasal Spray Sinex, Vicks Inhaler Nasal Stick, Vicks Sinex Micromist Nasal Spray, Vicks Sinex Soother: expert GP advice on which decongestant products are safe in pregnancy
In a nutshell
Most Vicks products are considered to be safe during pregnancy but please check with your pharmacist.
The expert view
There are a few different Vicks products that are designed to help when you have a cough, cold or stuffy nose – and each has different guidelines for use in pregnancy.
Vicks products include a vapour rub that contains menthol and/or eucalpytpus and can be rubbed onto your chest, back or throat before going to bed or added to hot water for inhalation. You can also buy a lip-balm-shaped inhaler stick to put up your nose and sniff to to relieve stuffiness. It contains menthol, camphor and pine needle oil.
If you would prefer a nasal spray, Vicks has 3 to choose from (see below). Two of these contain oxymetazoline hydrochloride: there are only limited studies and research into this ingredient's effects in pregnancy, so, even though little of it would be absorbed into your bloodstream, the manufacturer advises avoiding these products if you're pregnant, unless you discuss it with a healthcare professional first.
It's also important to know that other (non Vicks) nasal sprays or decongestants that contain pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine hydrochloride should be avoided in pregnancy because they can constrict your blood vessels, potentially increasing your blood pressure – and theoretically reducing blood flow to the placenta.¹
So, if you’re looking for an over-the-counter cold remedy or decongestant, always check the ingredients and tell your pharmacist you are pregnant, so that you can get some advice on what's safe in pregnancy and what’s not.
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Alternatively, you could use a saline nasal spray. And, though it may be considered old fashioned, steam inhalation – breathing in steam from by putting your head over a bowl of hot water and covering your head with a towel – can be a very effective way to relieve congestion caused by colds.
And remember, if you are unwell and have concerns, please seek medical advice.
Vicks products: which ones can I use in pregnancy?
- Vicks Vaporub is designed to help relieve the symptoms of a blocked nose, sore throat and cough. It is available as an ointment for rubbing on the chest, throat or back. It can also be added to hot water and the vapours inhaled. It's safe to use when pregnant.
- Vicks Inhaler Nasal Stick looks like a little lip balm stick and contains menthol, camphor and pine needle oil, which work to help clear stuffiness. It's safe to use when pregnant.
- Vicks First Defence Nasal Spray doesn’t contain any active medical ingredients, but uses a microgel to trap any possible cold virus particles and help stop them getting into your system. It's generally considered safe to use when pregnant.
- Vicks Sinex Micromist Nasal Spray contains oxymetazoline hydrochloride. The manufacturer advises avoiding this in pregnancy; please discuss this with a healthcare professional before considering using it.
- Vicks Sinex Soother is also a nasal spray containing oxymetazoline hydrochloride. The manufacturer advises avoiding this in pregnancy; please discuss this with a healthcare professional before considering using it.
Last reviewed: April 2023. Please note: Dr Philippa does not specifically recommend or endorse any brand of over-the-counter medicine. This advice is not personalised or meant to replace individual advice given to you by your doctor or medical team.
1. Phenylephrine. Factsheets; National Library of Medicine. Published March 2022.
About our expert Dr Philippa Kaye
Dr Philippa Kaye works as a GP in both NHS and private practice. She attended Downing College, Cambridge, then took medical studies at Guy’s, King’s and St Thomas’s medical schools in London, training in paediatrics, gynaecology, care of the elderly, acute medicine, psychiatry and general practice. Dr Philippa has also written a number of books, including ones on child health, diabetes in childhood and adolescence. She is a mum of 3.
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