Applying Vicks VapoRub on the chest is a common treatment for cough, cold, and flu. People do this especially before going to bed, as an aid to relieve their cough and sleep better.
However, a lot of people share their unusual experience with Vicks on the popular social media, saying they have relieved their cough symptoms by rubbing the ointment on the soles of their feet.
Is this Method Effective?
After applying Vicks on the soles of your feet, you need to put on your socks, and relax in your bed. Apparently, the vapors of the ointment will reach your throat, and as the users of this method explain, this cough relief technique will work only at night when lying in bed, and not during the day.
The clinical assistant professor in the Department of Pediatric Allergy, Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Rutgers University, Satya D. Narisety, M.D., explains that the menthol scent in the ointment triggers the cold receptors located in the upper airway and nose, the place where you sense smell and temperature.
In this way, the menthol tricks your brain to think that your airways are opening up and your congestion is reduced, although in reality your airways are not opened up, nor your mucus broken up.
Although first manufactured in 1890s in North Carolina, Vicks VapoRub came to prominence in 1918 during the flu epidemic. One of the Vicks’ ingredients is camphor, which is known for its cough suppressant properties. Another one is eucalyptus oil which relieves nasal congestion and provides antibacterial effects.
Although the manufacturer of the ointment doesn’t mention applying the ointment on feet, but only on chest and back area, it didn’t stop hundreds of people from trying out this cough relief method.
According to the chartered psychologist Dr. Lynne Jordan, one possible theory is that this method helps lower stress levels. If you concentrate on something different, like rubbing the ointment on feet and putting on your socks before slipping in your cozy bed, you will reduce your stress.
When you cough, you tense up and thus breathe in more shallowly. This further irritates the cough. Therefore, if you lower your stress levels, you will also relieve your cough. As TV doctor Dr Ranj Singh suggests, this whole method could be just a placebo effect.
Still, there is no scientific evidence that this odd use of Vicks VapoRub helps relieve cough and cold symptoms. Despite that, if rubbing Vicks on your soles does help relieve your cough, we don’t see any reason why not practicing this new cough method.
Can You Use Vicks on a Baby?
Regular Vicks VapoRub is not meant for babies, but only for kids over the age of two. Vicks Baby Rub on the other hand is a non-medical version of the original which is safe for babies older than three months.