August 8, 2012

DTQ: Why Did Putting Vicks Vaporub On The Kid's Feet Stop Her Cough?

So K2 woke up in the middle of the night with a sudden and intense cough, and had a really hard time even breathing; it seemed like a mid-night ER visit for sure, but I just sat her on the sofa with some Vicks Vaporub on her chest, and she eventually calmed down and could breathe easily enough to sleep.

The next morning, we borrowed my sister's pediatrician, who confirmed the kid didn't have pneumonia or ebola or whatever, and who said to put the Vicks on the soles of the kid's feet, then put some socks on. "No seriously," she said, "I know it sounds weird, but it works. I do it with my kids every time."

And I'll be damned, it sure did, K2 slept like a cough-free champ.

But now I'm baffled. Did the camphor-on-feet thing really work? Or is it just as likely that my ordering a bacon cheeseburger at Crown Burger for dinner last night was enough to cure her croup? Or maybe she just got better.

It all seems hokey, or mysterious, and now I wonder if this is going to be our superstitious ritual, or maybe there's an actual explanation? Because it's pretty impressive.


I suspect it's the placebo effect. Also, the rubbing may have been soothing and got her to relax, which reduces the cough impulse.

That recommendation, whether hockey or not, travels the globe. It's a common recommendation here in Australia too. And hey, if it's just a placebo, at least it's a cheap healthy one!

We did the same thing when the kid was 2, and it did seem to work. Our pediatrician was also the one who gave us the advice, and she believed it worked as a slow release mechanism to dole out the Vicks all night. The kid immediately adopted the foot rub as a required part of the bedtime routine, and we were putting Vicks and socks on her every night for months.

Why is it that up until yesterday I thought you were in NYC and not SLC. Been reading you for years and never figured that out.

Anyway, our Ped recommended the same thing and it works on both our boys. Great with Croup too.

We're actually just in SLC for a visit. My mother lives here.

You may find this discussion useful:

They have it noted as "undetermined."

It truly is global but even in places without Vicks. My wife is from the former soviet union and insists on putting mustard powder in socks to do the same thing. So there must be some mechanism at work with heating of the feet.

both my mom and MIL said to do the vicks on the feet and then socks for the kiddo. worked too...i wonder if it has to do with asian/eastern medicine pressure points on the feet or certain areas of the feet associated with a particular organ.

have you heard of the one when your ears need relief from pressure (like from flying) to burn a cone of newpaper that's inserted into the ear canal and let it burn down until the fire 'sucks' out the excess air in your ear? my hispanic friends swear by this. i don't relish the thought of setting fire to something that is inserted into my kids ear. unless he's old enough to stay still...

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