When Dr. B was a little girl, her Grandpa was a big believer in Vicks Vaporub. He believed that a thick layer of Vicks slathered on the chest at bedtime would ease coughs and cold symptoms. In fact, five generations of Dr B’s family have sworn by Vicks, and she thinks you should be a believer, too. If you don’t know about Vicks Vaporub, it is an over-the-counter salve invented in the 1890’s which contains camphor, eucalyptus and menthol, as well as a variety of inactive ingredients like nutmeg oil and cedarleaf oil.
Now there is scientific evidence that Vicks works! The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics just published a study that showed that topical use of Vicks significantly improves cough, congestion and sleep difficulties associated with minor respiratory illnesses in children. Vicks was rubbed on the chest at bedtime, then covered with a t-shirt or pajamas. Children and parent ratings showed that Vicks helped decrease bothersome illness symptoms at night.
The study used children age 2 years and older, although Vicks does have a baby rub that can be used down to age 3 months. Vicks is not recommended under age 3 months due to concern that the dose of camphor can exceed safe levels when used on newborns.
Remember, over-the-counter oral cold and cough remedies are not recommended in children under age 2 years, and their efficacy is limited in older children. So, the next time your child has a cold or cough, consider rubbing Vicks on her chest before bedtime.