Menthol and Eucalyptus Vapors
Treats: Chest and sinus congestion; cough
Why use vapors? Your congested baby will breathe a little easier when the scent of menthol or eucalyptus is in the air. The soothing vapors of these plant-based essential oils (menthol is made from peppermint leaves) open the body’s air passageways by triggering blood vessels to dilate. Eucalyptus oil is thought by many to possess expectorant qualities, meaning that breathing in eucalyptus vapors might make it easier for your child to cough up loosened mucus.
How to use them: Gently applying a petroleum-based menthol chest rub or adding liquid menthol to a steam vaporizer are tried-and-true vapor remedies. Twenty-first century vapor products include eucalyptus-scented baby bath products and small waterless vaporizers that heat essential oil-soaked pads to distill the soothing aroma throughout your child’s room.
But no matter which remedy you choose, carefully observe how your baby reacts whenever you use a vapor treatment. “Occasionally, the vapors may be too strong for some children, but overall they work well,” says Dr. Sears. Discontinue using any product that causes wheezing in your child—a sign that the vapors are too strong.
Keep in mind: Stay calm if your baby remains congested, despite your best efforts with vapor or other congestion remedies. “I try to remind parents that noisy breathing probably bothers them a lot more than it does the child, and as long as the child is content and feeding well, the less intervention the better,” says Dr. Miller.