soles of feet poking out from under the covers

Sometimes, a remedy that seems silly really works. One reader tried a ridiculous remedy for a nighttime cough that prevented sleep.

“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. As a person who worked in the military medical field for years, I 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.”

The Story on the Vicks Remedy:

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 the “Vicks remedy” 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 in your sheets.

Other Readers’ Stories:

Shari wrote:

“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.”

Red reported:

 “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.”

Steve said:

 “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 to get the first 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 (Wagner et al, Forschende Komplementarmedizin, online Dec. 14, 2016). Ginger in tea or as candied ginger can also calm a cough (Bera et al, Phytotherapy Research, Jan. 2016).

And we would like to hear from you about various cough and cold remedies that work (or fail). Please share your story in the comment section below so that others can learn from your experience. Have you had any luck using the Vicks remedy?

Revised 6/26/2017

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  1. Tommy

    My daughter couldn’t sleep due to dry cough. Tried this out.

    Actually suprised that this works.

  2. cina
    cape town

    I have this terrible dry cough and itchy throat. Nothing worked.
    I rubbed Vicks on the soles of my feet. It worked.

  3. Anu

    Trying tonight, have dry cough for few months and troubling my sleep

  4. Rocky
    NW Dallas Suburb

    Oh, and it works!! Wear nice fitting but definitely not tight socks–circulation!! It doubles as a foot skin softener. Put it on my coughy hacky husband this weekend and he finally slept after complaining about icky, ewey, greasy feet…

  5. Rocky
    NW Dallas Suburb

    A nurse that studied reflexology actually gave an interesting explanation as to why this works. The cough reflex is located in the oblongotta(sp) part of the brain, which in Chinese medicine is controlled by the kidney.. This area is somewhere in the middle of the foot near the toes, I think.

    The essential oils of camphor, menthol and eucalyptus all aid in quietening a cough and are carried quickly from the feet to the appropriate area to quickly aid in quelling a cough… I’m an accountant and trying to remember what I read–my anatomy may be off, but this is what I remember… Makes sense if you think about it

  6. Pam

    Going to try it tonite. Been to doctor and got lots of scripts and shots .Still coughing after 2 months. Hope this works.

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