“When I get coughs they’re intense. I cough to the point of throwing up and throwing my upper back out, ending up in the hospital. I always leave with narcotics for my back, a muscle relaxant, cough medicine with codeine, Sudafed, and Motrin.

“The only thing ever to come of this combination of medications is a lot of crankiness and I fall asleep for a couple of hours, only to wake up coughing. My friend told me to try the Vicks VapoRub treatment on the soles of my feet and then put on warm, thick socks. One night, because I was tired of being crabby from the oxycodone cough medicine I decided to give it a try.

“Within 20 minutes of using the treatment I was asleep and didn’t cough all night and didn’t start until I was getting ready to go to work. I tried it again the next night with the same results. After a few nights my cough was mostly gone, aside from a bit of a mild tickly cough.

“It’s amazing. I don’t generally go for these types of silly remedies – I worked in the military medical field for years and am very mainstream medicine. I tried this out of desperation, fully expecting it not to work. I am still shocked but am now a total believer.”


We were as skeptical as you were when we first heard about putting Vicks VapoRub on the soles of the feet to calm a nighttime cough. The woman who shared this remedy called it “wacky” and we certainly had to agree. We cannot explain it either.

With that disclaimer in place, however, we have to admit that we have tried it ourselves and to our amazement have found that Vicks does indeed seem to work when it is smeared on the soles of the feet. Thick socks are essential, though, or else you will create a sticky mess of your sheets.

Here are some other stories that support this bizarre remedy:

“Just last week, my grandson was staying here and had developed a cough starting that morning. When it didn’t go away, I searched my cabinet for cough medicine only to find out I was out. So…I remembered reading about the Vicks on the soles of the feet here and decided to test it out.

“It was unbelievable. He stopped coughing immediately and didn’t cough again until later the NEXT day. I was blown away! It really worked for him. I’m not sure it would work for everyone and for every cough, but I was really impressed.”


“I heard about this remedy last year after suffering about two weeks coughing every night and losing sleep. Nothing would stop the cough. Then I tried the vicks and had the first good night of sleep. Now I use it every time I get a cold.”


“Tried this remedy last night after my wife’s mom read about it in the Dallas Mornign News. We decided it couldn’t hurt to try, since Mucinex, Symbicort and various other methods had failed to reduce my cold-induced post nasal drip-cough. Imagine our surprise when it worked almost immediately, allowing us both get the good night’s sleep in three days. We’re going to buy Vicks in a gallon jug size.”

Now we assure you that we do NOT own stock in any drug company and do not benefit in the least from talking about Vicks VapoRub. But we love to pass on simple and affordable remedies that seem to work. Since drugstore cough medicines with dextromethorphan do not impress us, we are always looking for other options.

If you would like to learn about some other approaches to calming a cough or easing cold symptoms, we suggest our Guide to Colds, Coughs & the Flu. We are especially fond of thyme tea.

And we would like to hear from you about various cough and cold remedies that work (or fail). Please share your story below so that others can learn from your experience.

Join Over 54,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

Each week we send two free email newsletters with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies and a preview of our award-winning radio show. Join our mailing list and get the information you need to make confident choices about your health.

  1. Kari

    I had to share my thoughts after coming down with a horrible cough. My doctor prescribed cough syrup with Codeine, benzonatate, and finally Prednisone. The codeine did not allow me to sleep more than three hours and the Benzonatate allowed me a bit more sleep, however the best advice all year came from a employee from our local grocery store who told me to try Vicks on the soles of my feet (with socks!) before going to bed-I was totally skeptical, but looking for an alternative to prednisone, decided to try it.

    I had not slept since Sunday night, so I was going on five continuous days of violent coughing.. I was skeptical but slathered Vicks on my soles, covered them up and crawled into bed at 10:00 pm. Imagine our surprise when the alarm went off at 6:00 am?!?! I am completely blown away and had to Google it before even getting out of bed-I think I’ll be skipping the prednisone!

  2. Julia

    Why is this title called “ridiculous”? This is a remedy in our hometown for ever.

  3. b

    I had suddenly started coughing, mostly due to sinus drainage, and nothing seemed to stop the cough. As soon as I started rubbing vicks on my right foot, the coughing stopped. I couldn’t believe it, but it really did work for me. Now the only coughing I’m doing is to clear out what’s in my chest, and I’m making myself cough.

  4. Xeryus

    Firstly, I don’t take drugs of any type, even for a headache, I’m just suspicious. My kid of 5 has a cough almost like a crop type cough, heart breaking at night to listen to, I tried this vicks on the feet, and only a little bit maybe less than a pea size dob on each foot, coughing was every 2-3 minutes and now I have not heard a cough for 50 minutes. I don’t understand how, I think the feet like fingers have a lot of nerves and this is tricking the mind perhaps, either way it worked and I’m still boggled how. I’m still suspicious however, I’m just glad my child can have some peaceful sleep.

  5. nr

    Being a nurse, I was sure this was just too crazy to be true. I am taking a heart medication that causes me to cough, especially at night. After a month of this nagging, persistent cough, I finally broke down and put Vicks Vaporub on the bottoms of my feet and put on my socks. The coughing stopped.
    I thought I would give it the ultimate test, so I didn’t put it on for 2 nights. On the third day, the cough came back so I repeated the vicks. Now my cough is nearly non-existent. I still think this is crazy…… but it works!

  6. Fiona C

    It works both hubby and me tried it last night…daughter kept telling about this amazing cure…we tried it and amazingly IT WORKED…best nights sleep for a while!!!!!

  7. KellyN

    Can you use Vicks on your feet during the day?

  8. DS

    I agree with you. It works only if I put it on my feet. It doesn’t make any sense to me either!

  9. Jacqui

    I find putting it on my chest does not work as well. I don’t understand why but on the feet seems to produce a better result. It doesn’t make sense to me but it works.

  10. Jacqui P.

    I have a cpap machine also, and coughing is a nightmare. It helped me.

  11. Angela

    I was skeptical about vicks for my feet, but my current cough and other symptoms were keeping me from doing anything, especially sleeping. I begged my husband to pick up some vicks on his way home from work. It was a long, hacking, aching wait! But I finally got the stuff on my feet and drifted off to sleep peacefully within about 5 minutes. I’m praying for similar effects during the day so I can get back to work soon.

  12. Maria

    Amazing! I just try it and I think now I may be able to go to sleep! I have tried three coughs syrups before without success before I bum into this information. Many thanks!

  13. sara curtis

    My understanding is that when you put Vick’s Vapor Rub on part of your body is that inflammation is drawn towards the Vick’s. A thin slice of lemon heated, put on the sole of the foot and covered with a sock used to help with stuffy noses, general congestion when my kids were young. Vick’s worked the same way. Will spread the word about potential help with headaches. I love it!!!!

  14. Gayle

    I have heard for several years, that when your child has a cough, put Vicks on his feet. I thought it was ridiculous. Why would that work? On his chest, yes, but feet? So I hadn’t don’t that.
    My son coughs until he starts to vomit. Every single time he gets even the slightest cold, he does that. He’s seven years old and has a nasty virus right now, as do I.
    I decided to try Vicks on his chest. I didn’t remember it working that well when I was a kid, so I hadn’t tried it before.
    My husband said to put it on his feet. So, I said, ok, I’ll try it. Still thinking it was silly, I put it on his feet but not mine.
    I am amazed. He slept all night with no coughing. I know because I would have heard him, I was awake most of the night coughing. I didn’t put it on my feet.

  15. janz

    Try Vicks for neuropathy on your feet. Just rub in, put on a pair of sox and your feet will be calm and not spazzzzzzing out with nerves and pins and needles.


    When we were kids our Mom always rubbed our chest with Vicks and then wrapped a flannel cloth over it, then we put on our flannel PJs. It seemed to work and the vapors were close to the head so you inhaled the vapor all night. This always worked for us. Does anyone know if the foot method works better?

  17. CCD

    I always carry a jar of Vicks when we travel. Have used it for coughs, sprains and strains amongst other things and also used on my feet for neuropathy. The cough cure is supposedly very old, but it works, as do so many of those old cures!

  18. Kay

    I’m curious – has anyone compared the efficacy of putting the Vicks on your feet vs. putting it on your chest? I wonder if people put it on their feet so the smell isn’t as strong, but putting it on your chest actually works better…

  19. Bridget

    My podiatrist recommended that my husband use Vicks Vapor Rub on his thick crusty toenails, that have some sort of fungus in them…The result is a softer nail, much easier to trim and it appears to help calm down the fungus.

  20. DKC

    I wouldn’t have tried it or believed it, but at 3AM I was desperate to suppress my constant cough and sleep! So I decided to try it and IDK why it worked, but it did. Lasted for several hours, I’ve done it twice now!

  21. j

    One could consider an explanation from physiology and reflexology. The sole of the foot, like the palm, has the highest concentration of pores in the body making it perhaps the best site for absorption of chemicals. In reflexology the ball of the foot primarily governs the lungs, diaphragm, chest, esophagus and trachea. While the toes and their base governs the frontal sinuses, ears, eustachian tube and eyes. Acupuncture points roughly correspond.
    These are the organs most affected by cough and congestion. Vicks is a tropical analgesic, and would be absorbed better on the soles of the foot than other parts of the body, especially if the foot is wrapped. The ball also has the main fat pads of the foot, which may best solubilize the organic analgesics absorbed from the Vick’s. The effect of this absorption into the fat pad of the ball of the foot would be similar to massage or acupuncture stimulation of that area (e.g., relaxation of the lungs, diaphragm, chest, etc.).
    It would be interesting to know if putting Vicks only on the ball and toes would best effective as or more effective than spreading it over the entire surface of the sole of the foot.

  22. Pat

    We just LOVE Vicks. I’m in my 70’s and my Mom used Vicks on us when we were kids. We not only use it on our feet, we rub it on our necks and chest and wrap our necks if we have a sore throat. I even put a little under my nose if I feel clogged before I go to bed. Fortunately, we have found products to keep stress and illness away for the most part but if it gets to us, we get out the Vicks ASAP.

  23. YE

    This comment is only partly about Vicks Vaporub and partly about the bottom of the feet. About seventy years ago I learned about putting medication on the feet instead of into the stomach; my brother had pneumonia and was in great distress when a neighbor lady suggested that we make a poultice of onions boiled in sugar syrup, pack it on his feet and wrap with cloth and cover with socks – Don’t laugh! It worked! His fever broke and he got well very quickly.
    Back to Vicks; it has always been a mainstay for my family as it cures, yes cures, many things including athlete’s foot and . . . .

  24. pjh

    Having done this I’m a firm believer. Sure helps to get a nights sleep.

  25. a.s.

    My eldest daughter tried it on their 2-yr old. worked great.
    I use a CPAP machine. Wonder how it’d work for me?

  26. MS

    On Vicks vaporub cough/cold relief properties:
    This is a classic example of how American Medicine, deemed by many as “best in the world.” I agree with this edict award with some context. While our medical system bears the greatest burden of research costs and reaps incremental innovative rewards, it is driven by commercial engines.
    Vicks Mentholatum rub has been around for the best part of the 20th century. My family in Latin America has been benefiting from this simple home remedy since it hit the markets.
    Our “Scientific based reasoning” in the U.S. propels us to call this remedy wacky. Why? Are there randomized controlled trials disproving Vick’s relief? Not to my knowledge. There is however, a multi-million dollar industry supporting the use of syrups, new and improved gel caps.
    These innovative agents with marginal results merely accompany the life cycle of the common cold.
    We have been conditioned to abandon effective simplicity for the esoteric and costly. There is little incentive to recognize inexpensive agents in our isolationist ” Evidence-Based ” establishment.
    Thank God Mom knows best.

    • Julia

      well said.

  27. Hlt

    My husband who has dementia and he had fungus for a long time none of medicine helped. I rubbed the VICK to his toes nail every day then put the socks on. I saw the result after couple of days and continued to rub the VICK on for 4 weeks and the fungus were gone and haven’t saw them come back.

  28. DS

    It works for me and it works for my small grandson but I cannot get his uncle to try it. I am going to forward this web posting to show him that it’s worth trying. I don’t use the socks all the time and don’t use large amounts of Vicks. I just sit up in bed and apply a small amount on my feet.

  29. harold jitschak bueno de mesquita

    Always a bit surprised when reading these kind of “astonishment expressions” about remedies will have been used for so long already for conditions as described here, in Europe, in “primitive” tropical countries etc. Was America just discovered??
    Not just on the foot, simply a bit on the chest or back and wear a warm pyjama [night cloth].
    Yes, it works, but how come it looks so “outlandish”?

  30. MJ

    My mom’s sure-fire remedy to headache is to rub Vicks over forehead and temples – works every time.

What Do You Think?

Share your thoughts with others, but be mindful of protecting your own and others' privacy. Not all comments will be posted. Advice from web visitors is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. In posting a comment, you agree to our commenting policy and website terms and conditions.