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Congestion Therapy's Link to Respiratory Distress Studied

In animal study, VapoRub associated with increase in mucin secretion, tracheal mucociliary transport velocity

TUESDAY, Jan. 13 (HealthDay News) -- In ferrets, exposure to Vicks VapoRub was associated with effects that might explain the respiratory symptoms seen in some young children given the product intranasally, according to research published in the January issue of Chest.

Juan Carlos Abanses, M.D., of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., and colleagues conducted an investigation following a case of a toddler who developed respiratory distress after exposure to the product. The investigators exposed ferret trachea specimens to the product or a control substance, and also treated live ferrets with the product or a placebo. In the in vivo experiments, some of the animals first underwent tracheal inflammation with bacterial endotoxin.

In vitro, the product increased mucin secretion by 59 percent over baseline and decreased ciliary beat frequency by 36 percent compared to controls, the researchers report. In vivo, in ferrets whose airways were inflamed, VapoRub exposure was associated with a 34 percent increase in tracheal mucociliary transport velocity compared to those with inflamed airways and no VapoRub exposure, the report indicates.

"In summary, although Vicks VapoRub can fool the brain into perceiving increased airflow by activation of trigeminal cold receptors, the active ingredients are ciliotoxic and mildly proinflammatory, increasing mucus secretion while decreasing mucus clearance. This may be of little physiologic consequence in older children and adults, but in infants and small children this potentially can lead to respiratory distress," the authors write.

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