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Vicks First Defence review
Drug reviews: use, side effects, effectiveness

Vicks First Defence review: Are you being FOOLED?

One day whilst working in a pharmacy I was approached by an elderly gentleman who asked me if we sold Vicks First defence Nasal Spray. I directed him to a general sale aisle. Just before departing, the gentlemen said, ‘It must be good, all nurses in Addenbrookes [ward] use it’. I have never paid attention to Vicks First Defence nasal spray. I have never recommended it to any customer, but after I heard this statement, I needed to find out more about the product hence, Vicks First Defence review. I wondered if Addenbrooke’s nurses did their research or possibly a drug rep visited the ward in question (unlikely), or maybe the word of mouth did its trick.

What is Vicks First Defence nasal spray?

Vicks First Defence nasal spray is advertised as products that can be used in the fight against cold or flu. The manufacturer of Vick’s First Defence spray claims that it can reduce/prevent the chances of developing a ‘full-blown’ cold, when used in the first 36 hours of the cold, on the onset of first symptoms, for example when feeling a scratchy throat, tickly nose or sneezing.

How Vicks First Defence fights cold and flu?

Vicks First Defence nasal spray is designed to neutralise the virus which causes cold and flu by trapping it inside a microgel, which is sprayed inside your nose. Recommended for anyone aged 12 and above, including pregnant and breastfeeding customers, Vicks First Defence nasal spray seems like a magic bullet against cold.

Vicks First Defence review: the evidence

I would love to write a positive review of Vicks First Defence nasal spray and like Addenbrookes nurses recommend it (so you can click in the Amazon link and I can earn my referral share ;-), however, the evidence supporting the above claims is not available for public review. Although some references are noted on Vicks website in the product description, they are not accessible to the general public, should you wish to read more about the product effectiveness.

Vicks First Defence review: are we being fooled?

Like Addenbrookes nurses, many customers are being a victim of clever marketing. Yes …, you get some reviews from users about the nasal spray working, or magically preventing a cold (it seems Vicks First Defence is popular on trans-Atlantic flights), however, nothing exists in a public domain to support the effectiveness of this product.

In majority cases, a common cold is caused by a rhinovirus. Once inside the nose, rhinovirus infects the cells, replicates, producing many copies of itself. Symptoms of the common cold may develop as early as 12 hours after the infection with the virus and may include: runny nose, sneezing, and congestion (Harris et al, 1996). Not all patients who are infected with rhinovirus get cold symptoms. It takes about 2-3 days for the infection to peak. There is no cure for a common cold.

Studies have shown that the body’s immune system responds to infection very quickly. In less than 24 hours after the infection, our body starts to fight it (Kennedy et al, 2012). It is questionable if nasal sprays such as Vicks First Defence can prevent the spread of viruses.

Vicks First Defence spray contains zinc. Some evidence exists which shows no change in the duration of the common cold when zinc containing nasal spray was used in a research study (Belongia et al, 2001).

Vicks First Defence spray: legal matters

How is it possible to make claims with no further information for public review?

Vicks First defence nasal spray is marketed as a medical device and not as medicine. In the concept of this post and according to MHRA, a medical device is an ‘instrument’ for human use to prevent, or treat or alleviate a disease (MHRA, 2013).  

With this, Vicks First defence nasal spray can be purchased from any retail outlet. Furthermore, its intended actions are not achieved by pharmacological means (as opposite for example to drugs). Although claim-supporting information must be available, it does not have to be made public.


With a lack of evidence and questionable mechanism of action at a molecular level, I can conclude Vicks First Defence nasal spray is a marketing gimmick. Our body’s immune system is excellent is fighting off infections. Any benefits are questionable since the immune system kicks in at the early stages of infection.


Does Vicks First Defence actually work?

There is no evidence to support the effectiveness of Vicks First Defence in treatment or prevention of cold or flu. Vicks First Defence is licensed as a medical device and with such, no claim supporting information need to be available to the public.

Can First Defence stop a cold?

No. First Defence will not stop the cold, but your body will.

Can you use Vicks First Defence when you have a cold?

Yes, you can use Vicks First Defence when you have a cold.


Belongia EA, Berg R, Liu K. (2001). A randomized trial of zinc nasal spray for the treatment of upper respiratory illness in adults. Available at: Accessed on 25/11/2019

J. Mitchell Harris, Jack M. Gwaltney, Incubation Periods of Experimental Rhinovirus Infection and Illness, Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 23, Issue 6, December 1996, Pages 1287–1290, Available at: Accessed on 25/11/2019

Kennedy JL, Turner RB, Braciale T, Heymann PW, Borish L. Pathogenesis of rhinovirus infection. Curr Opin Virol. 2012;2(3):287–293. doi:10.1016/j.coviro.2012.03.008 Available at: Accessed on 25/11/2019

MHRA (2013). Medical devices: how to comply with the legal requirements. Available at: Accessed on 25/11/2019

I am a community pharmacist working in UK. I blog about drugs, health and pharmacy.


  • Mike Hitchcock

    I used to get colds regularly but 4 years ago I started to use First Defence at the start of cold symptoms and have not had a cold since. Only a personal experience but it definately works for me.

  • Ray Willis

    My wife and I have used Vicks first defence for about a year. We just use two or three squirts up each nostril as soon as we feel that we have cold symptoms:-
    – Three Sneezes and or
    – Sore throat and or
    – Repeated Coughing and or
    – feeling coldish (We all know what it is like)
    Surprisingly we have never known it to fail and have recommended it to friends who have also had similar results.
    Any further symptoms have been short lived.
    Just because there is no evidence to support the claims yet does not mean that it does not work. In our experience it certainly does.

  • George

    Both my wife and myself have used Vicks First Defence and believe that it works for us. However, I think that people are exploiting the present Corona virus situation as an excuse to inflating the price.

  • Emma

    Been using it for years and it works for me. Almost invariably, my first symptom to a cold/flu is a sore throat. As soon as I feel that coming on, I use First Defence as directed (while trying to not let the nozzle/spray touch the central part of my nose too much, as that can hurt) and the sore throat normally goes away after a single use. Which is a good thing, because the spray stings the back of your throat, so is not entirely pleasant to use. Occasionally the sore throat will persist beyond one treatment, so I will take the First Defence again again, as directed, until it goes away. Haven’t had a full blown cold, or flu, since this product was first released. I am not a doctor, or a scientist and am not affiliated with Vicks, Proctor & Gamble, or any other associated company. I am only speaking from an entirely personal perspective.

  • Marian

    I too have been using First Defence since it came on the market and I think I have only had one proper cold since then. I think I got that only because I waited too long to use First Defence and the cold had gone too far to be stopped. Maybe it is just mind over matter but as long as it works for me I will keep using it.

  • Mrs Carolyn Jackson 'CJ'

    Every time I flew to France to see family I arrived with something I caught on the plane, sore throat, cough or just generally feeling rough. I then started using FD before every flight and during the flight too. Following this I arrived in France feeling great, no symptoms whatsoever – I would never fly anywhere without using it.

    With the pandemic I use it each time before I put mask on – brilliant stuff.

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