Q. Decades ago, I had one of those annoying, tickly, nonproductive coughs that kept me up ALL night. An old-timer I knew told me to put a heating pad under my butt. I went to bed convinced that it would not help, but I slept very soundly that night.

Recently, a friend of mine had a terrible cough from bronchitis. Cough syrup with codeine was useless. I told her about the heating pad remedy, and she had the same excellent results I did. Please tell your readers about this.

A. This is a very unusual cough remedy. It seems even stranger than putting Vicks VapoRub on the soles of the feet, a popular though peculiar approach to quelling nighttime coughs.

We can’t think of a scientific explanation for why a heating pad would stop a pesky cough, but it seems fairly benign and might be worth consideration.

For other remedies that can help against coughs and other symptoms of the viral infections so common at this time of year, we offer our Guide to Colds, Coughs & the Flu.

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  1. Judy
    Reply

    Just wanted to throw my hat in the ring for Vicks on the bottoms of the feet for a cough. Recently had a terrible bout with the flu bug 13 days in bed… the Vicks worked immediately for the awful cough; and I believe that because it is a decongestant, it allowed me to cough up the phlegm the next day. Hooray!

  2. LT
    Reply

    Vicks VapoRub on the feet does quiet coughs and it also works when a nose is very stuffy or runny in the middle of a cold. The person will sleep soundly without being bothered. It’s amazing and is not harmful to the sick person. I rub it on the soles of the feet and put white socks over. (White so that they can be washed in hot water; socks to protect the bedding.)
    Another great remedy – better than codeine for coughs, is home-made cocoa. Grandma’s recipe: 1 heaping teaspoon of dry cocoa, 1 heaping teaspoon of sugar, a pinch of salt. Dissolve in a little bit of water on the stove, when it nearly boils, add 1 cup milk. Warm on a medium burner until hot – NOT boiling – and serve. A cup an hour before bed will help the person all night.
    Once I tested these remedies, I’ve never used or given any cough syrup or store-bought cold remedy, including decongestant, again.

  3. Beverly H.
    Reply

    I sleep on a heated mattress cover. I have noticed that when I sleep on my back when I have a cold, I don’t seem to cough as much.

  4. JM
    Reply

    I once tried sleeping on a heating pad to help an earache. Fortunately, while I was still awake, there was a crackling sound that caused me to sit up before it burst into flames! I have never since used an electric heating pad. I use the microwaved versions all the time. NOTE: New ones may be designed to go off, but I had a fireman tell me never to trust things that get hot; they rely on a simple off switch that can fail; toasters left plugged in when not in use have been known to start fires.

  5. Bev
    Reply

    The newer heating pads go off after 30 minutes if no change in the setting has been made. They work beautifully and you have no need to worry.

  6. RF
    Reply

    I use a heating pad that is warmed up in the microwave. The heat in it lasts for a long time. This would be a good alternative to being connected to an electrical heating pad all night.

  7. pd
    Reply

    How can you call this a “benign” solution when instructions for every heating pad I’ve ever used specifically say not to a) sit or lay on it b) fall asleep with it on?
    A hot water bottle would be safer and it’s about time somebody came up with a flat hot water bottle and others that fit around the neck, around the knee, wrist or ankle instead of that fat, short rectangle that is almost impossible to position.

  8. P.G.
    Reply

    Placing a heating pad ON the butt, if lying on ones side, could be tried, but lying ON TOP of the heating pad may be a fire hazard/and/ or cause burns to the body. The heating pad could over heat. One should read the directions/warnings on his heating pad.

  9. Edith
    Reply

    A word of caution: Heating pads can cause burns even on the low setting when used for an extended period of time. Diabetics need to take extra caution when using a heating pad and not have one on for more than 20 minutes.

  10. et
    Reply

    I do not believe it is generally safe to go to sleep with a heating pad under a person. I would be very cautious and make sure the person was prone or sidelying, was not diabetic, did not have sensitive skin, or decreased sensation.

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