Vicks VapoRub may help ease nighttime cold symptoms in children

My mom, a nurse, used Vicks VapoRub on us boys as we grew up. She believed in it, as did our pediatrician, Gloria Weir, MD. And, Barb and I used it on our kids. Loved it. And, it seemed to work well. Then, it fell out of repute … but, now … it’s back!

The CNN “The Chart” blog reports, “Parents get frustrated with the FDA recommendations not to use cold medicines in kids under the age of four because they are left with few options.”

Thus, “Vicks VapoRub is often used to fight colds and congestion,” but “there has never been proof of how well it works.”

Now, however, research underwritten by Procter & Gamble indicates that the “combination of camphor, menthol, and eucalyptus oils actually does ease cold symptoms and help children suffering from upper-respiratory infections sleep.”

Before reaching that conclusion, Penn State researchers randomized “138 children ages two to 11 to one of three groups for one night – Vicks VapoRub, petroleum jelly, or no treatment,” MedPage Today reports.

“The venerable nasal congestion remedy Vicks VapoRub beat out petroleum jelly and no treatment for easing nighttime symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections in children,” according to the paper in Pediatrics.

Indeed, “improvement was found in each group for all study outcomes, but cough, congestion, and sleep were significantly improved more in those children who used VapoRub,” and “parents slept better when their children used VapoRub.”

Vapor rubs pose very little chance for toxicity.

The study’s lead author, Ian Paul, pointed out that “vapor rubs have been used for a century but in high concentrations camphor can be dangerous, especially for children,” the Chicago Tribune “Julie’s Health Club” blog reports.

“Prior to 1994, before the FDA regulated camphor, there were problems with ingestion, particularly in the form of camphorated liquid oils, said Paul.

But the FDA has since reduced the maximum allowable concentration to below 11 percent, where there is very little chance for toxicity, Paul said.”

So, Mom, here’s to you … and the age old therapy of Vick’s VapoRub.

2 thoughts on “Vicks VapoRub may help ease nighttime cold symptoms in children

  • Walt, we no only had our chests rubbed with Vick’s, but we put it up our noses, and even took some on our fingertip and swallowed it!!! Now we read of more of the ‘wonders’ of its use.

  • Diane Alsens

    Walt, I put it on my feet when a cold/coughing threatens to keep me up. Just rub it on the bottom of my feet and wear socks to bed. It works! Keeps the coughing to a minimal and I get the sleep I need. Our kids use it this way too.

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