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Why You Should Keep Vicks Out Of Your Nose

Posting Date: 03/08/2004

Q. You recently told readers not to put Vicks VapoRub in the nose. You suggested that camphor, an ingredient in Vicks, might be the problem.

As a pulmonary physician, I can explain the real reason there is a warning against putting Vicks VapoRub in the nostrils. It is not the camphor, but the petrolatum. Petroleum jelly or mineral oil can cause a chronic form of pneumonia when aspirated into the lungs.

Most people inhale minute quantities of their nasal secretions, especially during sleep. Over time, the oil components of VapoRub or petroleum jelly can?t be cleared from the lungs. This can lead to cough, shortness of breath and reduced lung capacity.

There are no effective treatment options for this type of pneumonia, so it is never advisable to place any oil-containing substances into the nostrils. Saline nasal spray is a much safer option for keeping the nostrils moist.

A. Thank you for explaining this hazard. Some people put a dab of petroleum jelly in the nose at night to combat dryness. Based on your explanation, this would be a mistake if done regularly.

Q. I have a delicate problem--excessive perspiration. I work in an office and I sweat right through my t-shirt and dress shirt, leaving embarrassing stains under my arms that go halfway down my side.

I can't count the number of different deodorants I've tried, and no matter the claims, they don't help. I end up with yellow stains that don?t wash out on my t-shirts (and even some dress shirts). I just end up throwing the shirts away.

I've heard that there is an injection you can get from a doctor that stops the glands under the arms from working. Can you tell me about this treatment or offer a less drastic alternative?

A. The treatment is called Botox. The injection supplies a controlled dose of purified botulinum toxin A. A recent study presented at the American Academy of Dermatology showed that armpit injections stopped excessive sweating in 75 percent of patients. While the benefits last several months, they are not permanent and the cost is not trivial ($1000 or more).