Chest rubs also known as vapor rubs, are one of the essential in your baby’s medical kit. However, did you know that not all baby rubs are safe for your baby?

Like every other baby product, you need to look deep into the ingredients to ensure what’s advertised as safe and harmless is, in fact, safe for your baby.



What are Vapor Rubs?

Vapor rubs are topical ointments that are used to relieve congestion, cough, and cold. They are known to create a soothing effect, help ease congestion and aid breathing.

People apply vapor rubs over the chest (hence called chest rubs), over the throat, bridge of the nose, back and on the feet to bring relief. Some even apply it over the head, to relieve head cold.


Are Baby Vapor Rubs safe?

To determine which vapor rub is safe for your baby, you need to take a good look at the ingredients.

Studies state that well-known brands of vapor rubs can be dangerous and have caused respiratory issues in children.

As a general rule of thumb, never use the vapor rubs meant for adults with babies. Babies and infant skins are delicate and absorb what goes topically more than an average adult.

Ingredients that could be safe for adults can be potentially dangerous for babies. It is crucial to read and follow the instructions when treating infants with chest rubs.


  • Make sure to take a look at all the ingredients that goes into the balm. Also, read the instructions and follow through it.

Dr.Bruce Robin, from the department of pediatrics at Wake Forest University School of Medicine,who researched the side effects Vicks Vapor rub on young children, said

Some of the ingredients in Vicks, notably the menthol, trick the brain into thinking that it is easier to breathe by triggering a cold sensation, which is processed as indicating more airflow,” he said. “Vicks may make you feel better, but it can’t help you breathe better.

“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.” Source



Harmful Ingredients to Avoid

Some of the common ingredients in the commercial vapor rubs are undesirable and not something that I feel comfortable rubbing on my baby’s delicate skin.

I grew up using commercial vapor rubs, and I bought the same for my kids. However, after some research, I had to toss it away, and I preferred natural ingredients that I felt confident using on my kids.

Let me explain some of the toxic substances in the vapor rub, and you can decide whether to keep or toss the one you have.

  • Petroleum Jelly:

Petroleum jelly is such a common ingredient that is found in all baby care products these days. Petroleum jelly, petrolatum, white petrolatum, soft paraffin, paraffin wax – they are all the same.

From baby lotions to diaper creams, and moisturizers, you will find them in everything. Seems like, there is a reason why petroleum jelly is such a common ingredient, after all.

Mainly because they are cheap.

Obviously, we all know that cheap may not always be the safest when it comes to our babies.

But, what’s wrong with Petroleum Jelly?

  • Petroleum By Product: 

Did you know that petroleum jelly is derived from oil rigs?

It is a by-product of oil drilling which is not a sustainable source!

If you are concerned about the environment, that right there is a strong reason to find better eco-friendly alternatives.

  • Zero Skin Nourishment :

Petroleum jelly doesn’t provide any nourishment to your skin, whatsoever.

There are amazing natural alternatives like shea butter, cocoa butter, and beeswax that not only protects skin but also nourishes your skin from the inside out.

  • Blocks Pores:

Petroleum Jelly can suffocate your skin.

Your skin needs to breathe, and it needs oxygen to repair itself. Petroleum jelly sits over your skin, blocking the pores and restricts air flow.

While there can be temporary relief, using petroleum jelly on a regular basis can cause more skin damage in the longer run.


  • Fragrances:

Companies do not usually disclose what fragrances are added to their products. Artificial fragrances are a major lung irritant and a leading cause for  lung cancer.
  • Camphor:

Camphor is another ingredient that you should avoid at any cost. Studies confirm various toxic side effects of using Camphor on small children.

Camphor is extremely dangerous when ingested, can cause seizures and kidney failure. Therefore, proper care should be taken to keep balms containing camphor out of the reach of children.

Some manufacturers even warn against applying vapor rubs directly on the nostrils, because of reports about infants collapsing after such improper use of camphor.

Moreover, Camphor is also irritating to the eyes, skin and mucous membranes.

  • Menthol:

Menthol is the reason why these commercial vapor rubs dub us into thinking they actually work.

Menthol, when applied on the skin, creates a cooling effect which tricks our brain into thinking that the airways are clear.

Studies show that Menthol does not really increase the air flow to the lungs, so there is no real benefit. And when it comes to babies and young children, it can do more harm than good.

In fact, Menthol can cause adverse effects on children by increasing inflammation and mucus secretion.


Best Natural Chest Rubs:

Mom massaging baby's chest with natural vapor rubs for cold and congestion relief

Luckily, we do have some safe, natural alternatives available in the market today. These natural chest rubs are free of petroleum and other dirty ingredients that are found in the commercial products.

On the other hand, don’t blindly believe everything advertised as natural. Carefully examine every ingredient, if in doubt it is better to ask the manufacturer for clarification

Heads up! This post contains Affiliate links. I earn a small commission at NO extra cost to you when your purchase using my links.
  • Maty’s all Natural Baby Chest Rub

Maty’s is a favorite brand of chest rub made only from natural and wholesome ingredients. Maty’s also carry a wide range of natural, organic products like cough syrups, baby ointments, and indigestion relief remedies.

Maty’s Baby Chest Rub has raving reviews in Amazon and rightfully so.

You will be amazed by their careful selection of ingredients. Made of Eucalyptus, Lavender, and Chamomile, their chest rub is soothing and comforting.

Maty’s also promises that their products are free of petroleum, hydrogenated oils and artificial fragrances.

Maty’s is very keen about using essential oils safely. Which means all oils are diluted in right proportions according to the age of the baby.

Did You Know?

Maty’s  is very cautious about the safe use of essential oils . All EO’s used are carefully diluted for the recommended age of the baby.

Their baby chest rub is approved by Robert Tisserland, one of the world’s leading expert in essential oil safety.

All Natural Chest Rub is vegan and gluten free and is safe to use from babies over three month old.

See Ingredients List

  • Coconut Oil
  • Castor Oil
  • Lavender EO
  • Chamomile EO
  • Eucalyptus Radiata EO
  • Dill Weed Essential Oil
  • Coriander Essential Oil
  • Patchouli Essential Oil
  • Sunflower Oil
  • Sunflower wax
  • Vitamin E
  • Zarbee’s Soothing Chest Rub

For those kids who react to coconut, Zarbee’s soothing chest rub is a safe bet. It doesn’t not contain coconut oil , instead, uses Shea butter and Bees wax.

Zarbee’s is found by a pediatric father who wanted better and safer products for the kids. Zarbee’s offers various immune support and throat relief products. I’m particularly interested in trying out their  Children Elderberry Immune support gummies for my kids.

Safe to use on babies over two months old

See Ingredients List

  • Castor Oil
  • Bees wax
  • Carnauba wax
  • Lavender Oil
  • Wintergreen leaf oil
  • Eucalyptus Radiata leaf oil
  • Shea Butter
  • Vitamin E
  • Balm!Baby Eucalytpus Rub

Badger Baby Eucalyptus rub is a multiple purpose ointment. It is safe to use on babies (3 +months), pregnant women and for the whole family.

This balm is a perfect de-congestion aid during the cold and flu season. It can also be used to relieve morning sickness and nausea.

This product is NUT free, vegan, organic, North American made and comes in a recyclable glass jar!

See Ingredients List

  • Olive oil
  • Calendula
  • Chamomile
  • rosemary
  • noni
  • candelilla wax
  • Vitamin E
  • Eucalyptus, peppermint and lavender EO
  • Honest Co Organic Breathe Easy Rub

Breathe Easy Rub is hypoallergenic, USDA certified organic that does not contain menthol, petrolatum, lanolin, parabens, synthetic fragrances, mineral oil, or dyes.

This aromatic rub works well on babies (over 3+ months)  and adults alike.

See Ingredients List

    • Sunflower oil
    • Beeswax
    • Olive oil
    • Coconut oil
    • Shea butter
    • Rose Hip, Eucalyptus, lavender , Tea Tree, Rosemary oil
    • Vitamin E


  • Nature Organic Ac-choo! Chest Rub

Ac-Choo vapor rub is another fantastic option for babies over six months of age. The light texture and soothing fragrances work great to relieve even the stubborn congestion. All while being super gentle of your baby’s skin.

Ac-Choo rub is proudly made in USA with certified organic and vegan ingredients.

See Ingredients List?

  • Olive Oil
  • Sunflower seed oil
  • Eucalyptus Globulus
  • Lavender oil
  • Tea tree oil

Safety Tips to Keep in Mind:

It is always recommended to practice safety while medicating children. Keep this important safety tips in mind while using chest rubs.

  • Always keep chest rubs away from the reach of children.
  • Make sure to read the instructions and stick to it.
  • Call poison control immediately in case of accidental ingestion.
There  some horrifying bits of advice floating around on Facebook Mom groups, so do your research, ask your doctor or contact the manufacturer, before you attempt anything.
  • Do not ingest vapor rubs, they are intended for external use only.
  • Do not steam or inhale vapor rubs, unless you get an OK from the manufacturer.
  • Do not apply vapor rubs directly on the nose, unless its OK to do so.



It is hard to keep our little one’s away from catching cold, however, we can ensure that we are using the best products to bring them relief. I hope this post encourages you to choose a more natural chest rub for your baby.

Safe & Natural Baby Chest Rubs – My Top Picks:

  1. Maty’s All Natural Baby Rub.
  2. Zarbee’s Soothing Chest Rub
  3. Balm Baby Eucalyptus Rub
  4. Honest Organic Breathe Easy Rub
  5. Nature Organic Achoo Rub

All of the vapor rubs listed above are amazing. Although, my personal preference is Maty’s All natural baby rub.

I feel comfortable knowing that their product is approved by an essential oil safety expert.


Share your Thoughts!

Do you have a favorite? Let me know in the comments what worked for you. As always , please share this with another mama who wants to do the best for her baby! Pin this for later read or share it with a friend


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