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Does Vicks VapoRub ever expire? Photo of 1987 jar goes viral

The topical decongestant is effective, but it does have an expiration date.

One mom's story of using a decades-old jar of Vicks VapoRub has social media users singing the product's praises, even as the brand cautions the use of expired products.

Heather Chacon, an assistant professor of English at Greensboro College in North Carolina, shared a photo of herself holding a vintage jar of Vicks VapoRub.

"My son has been sick (not Covid) and shout to to my mom, who loaned us the SAME pot of Vicks she used to use on me growing up," Chacon wrote.

In a follow-up message, Chacon added that she had used the topical cough suppressant on her son — and that it had surprising results.

"Rest assured I did use this and it did indeed help. Vintage Vicks for the win," Chacon wrote.

The tweet quickly went viral, racking up thousands of likes and hundreds of comments and shares. Many Twitter users chimed in with their own stories of using similarly dated products.

"I’ve got you beat! Just found this in my mom’s closet and it’s my grandma’s writing on there. November 1965," wrote one user. "I was congested the other day, put some under my nose, and work just fine! This stuff is immortal!"

Another said that despite their expertise as a medical doctor, their mother sent them a jar of Vicks from 1982. Other users showed off their own decades-old products.

While users might be delighted with the story, the Vicks brand was a little less enthused.

"Heather, we're sorry your son is sick, and hope he's feeling better soon," wrote the brand on Twitter. "The safety of your family is very important to us, and while we appreciate your mom's confidence in VapoRub, we recommend that you don't use an expired product."

How long does it take for Vicks VapoRub to expire?

Vicks VapoRub does eventually expire, according to the company's website, and should not be used past the expiration date stamped on it.

"Do not use Vicks VapoRub beyond the expiration date on the package," said the company online, echoing their comment to Chanson and other Twitter users who shared their stories of using vintage Vicks products.

A spokesperson for Procter & Gamble, the parent company of Vicks, repeated that sentiment in a statement emailed to TODAY Health.

"We do not recommend using Vicks VapoRub past the expiration date," said the spokesperson. "The expiration dates reflect the time period during which the product is known to remain stable, which means it retains its strength, quality, and purity when stored according to its labeled storage conditions."

Onisis Stefas, chief pharmacy officer at Northwell Health, said that in general people should avoid using medication that is past its expiration date, since it can no longer be effective or even cause harm. Some medications can grow bacteria in them, while others can be even more dangerous: Medications like tetracycline become toxic and can result in kidney damage if used past their expiration date.

"It's not good to use medications past their expiration date, particularly 30-plus years after the fact," Stefas said.

How often should you clean out your medicine cabinet?

NBC News medical contributor Dr. Natalie Azar recommends taking a look through your medicine cabinet regularly to make sure that you're properly disposing of expired medications.

Azar recently appeared on TODAY and advised setting aside any item that is expired and checking its color, smell and consistency. If anything is off, dispose of the medication. For prescriptions, Azar recommends following the "one year cut-off rule:" Many medications lose their potency after expiration, which can lead to severe side effects.

"It's just extremely important to always check it, don't take a chance," said Stefas. "And if you have an expired medication, Especially if it's over-the-counter just then go out and you know get a get a new one with, with a new end date, so you can ensure that it's safe and effective."

Make sure you safely dispose of your medications and restock on whatever you need on a regular basis.