Can you eat Vicks?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you eat Vicks?” and discuss what are the risks of ingesting Vick’s VapoRub.

Can you eat Vicks?

No, you cannot eat Vicks. Vicks VapoRub is a medication to be applied on the skin or to be inhaled and not to be ingested.

The ingestion of this medicine can lead to vomiting, confusion, and convulsions, due to the poisoning caused by Camphor, one of its active ingredients (2).

What are the risks of eating Vicks VapoRub?

Due to the presence of camphor, menthol and eucalyptus oil in its composition, Vicks VapoRub may be toxic.

More than 100000 cases of ingestion exposures to camphor-containing products were registered between 1990 and 2003, causing a range of symptoms that comprises convulsion, lethargy, ataxia, severe nausea, vomiting and coma (3).

Menthol, another component of the formula of Vicks, is generally considered safe and its toxic effect is rare. However, it has been reported that a patient remained unconscious and then developed recurrent convulsions, transient shock, renal, and respiratory failure after being exposed to high doses of menthol (4).

Besides, an excessive amount of menthol is also reported to have caused agitation, dizziness, ataxia, hallucination, convulsion, and coma.

Reports of poisonings due to the ingestion of eucalyptus oil are rare. The ingestion of eucalyptus oil can quickly and significantly harm the body. Symptoms may include a fiery sensation in the mouth and throat, stomach discomfort, and vomiting that can occur up to 4 hours after ingestion. 

Respiratory issues such as bronchospasms and rapid breathing may also arise, with severe poisoning leading to reduction of respiratory rates. The central nervous system may also be affected, resulting in reduced or loss of reflexes, a lowered level of consciousness, and potentially even a coma (5).

What should you do if you accidentally ingest Vicks VapoRub?

If you accidentally ingest Vicks VapoRub, you should seek medical assistance from family doctors in three distinct scenarios: through a phone call, a visit to the office, or by being admitted to a hospital (6). 

Patients in any of these scenarios should seek early communication with the poison control center (telephone: 800-222-1222) for assistance with ongoing management. 

If patients are asymptomatic, have consumed a known non-toxic dosage of Vicks, and are deemed trustworthy, they may receive treatment from the comfort of their own home with assistance from the poison control center. 

However, patients experiencing symptoms or those with an uncertain exposure should be transported to the emergency department via ambulance. 

If patients visiting a physician’s office display altered mental status or unstable vital signs or have taken a deliberate overdose, they should be transported to the emergency department immediately. 

Furthermore, gastrointestinal decontamination should only be carried out in a hospital or emergency department setting; hence, patients who may benefit from this procedure (as outlined in the initial approach section) should also be transported. 

Patients who have accidentally ingested a known dosage of a Vicks VapoRub with low potential for toxicity and are in a stable condition may only be monitored in a physician’s office.

What is the composition of Vicks VapoRub?

Vicks VapoRub is a pharmaceutical preparation containing a combination of levomenthol (2.75% w/w), eucalyptus oil (1.5% w/w), turpentine oil (5% w/w) and camphor (5% w/w) as active ingredients, and thymol, cedarwood oil, and white soft paraffin (petrolatum) as excipients. 

Vicks VapoRub is an ointment that is either applied topically to the chest, throat, and back or added to hot water and the aromatic vapors inhaled. When applied to the skin, the active ingredients are evaporated by body temperature and inspired into the airways. The therapeutic effects are reduction in cough frequency and relief from nasal congestion (1).

Vicks VapoRub contains the following active ingredients:

  • Camphor (4.8 percent)
  • Menthol (2.6 percent)
  • The oil of eucalyptus (1.2 percent)

Other inactive substances may be to blame for some of its more well-known applications, such as:

  • essential oil of cedar
  • thymol turpentine oil
  • nutmeg oil
  • petrolatum


In this article, we answered the question “Can you eat Vicks?” and we discussed what are the risks of ingesting Vick’s VapoRub.


  1. Santhi, Nayantara, et al. Efficacy of a topical aromatic rub (Vicks VapoRub®) on effects on self-reported and actigraphically assessed aspects of sleep in common cold patients. Open J resp dis, 2017, 7, 83-101.
  2. Manoguerra, Anthony S., et al. Camphor poisoning: an evidence-based practice guideline for out-of-hospital management. Clin Toxicol, 2006, 44, 357-370.
  3. Zuccarini, Paolo. Camphor: risks and benefits of a widely used natural product. J Appl Sci Environ Manage, 2009, 13, 2.
  4. Kumar, Akshay, et al. A fatal case of menthol poisoning. Int j appl basic med res, 2016, 6, 137.
  5. Patel, S., and J. Wiggins. Eucalyptus oil poisoning. Arch Dis Childhood, 1980. 55, 405-406.
  6. Frithsen, Ivar L., and William M. Simpson Jr. Recognition and management of acute medication poisoning. Am family phys, 2010, 81, 316-323.