Jar of Vicks VapoRub

Q. I have heard for years that when your child has a cough, you should put Vicks on his feet. I thought that was ridiculous. On his chest, yes, but feet? So I hadn’t done that. My son coughs until he starts to vomit whenever he gets even the slightest cold. 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. Still thinking it was silly, I put it on his feet but not mine. He slept all night with no coughing. I know because I would have heard him; I was awake most of the night coughing.

A. Camphor, eucalyptol and menthol, all found in Vicks, are approved OTC cough medicine ingredients. Why applying this ointment to the soles of the feet could quell a cough remains a mystery. It is certainly worth a try for a child, however, since most cough syrups don’t work very well in kids.

There is more information about the strange and wonderful ways people have applied this venerable remedy in our Guide to Unique Uses for Vicks.

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  1. cheree

    It does work a works well I have cold (lung disease/chronic bronchitis) my theory is that the feet are well known to be an area that releases toxics from the body hence foot odour, fungal infections ect, with the skin on the feet being so thin and delicate it is easier absorbed into the system, when applying the ointment within minutes you feel the muscles in your legs cool down working its way up. Obviously with the feet not being exposed to the elements as much they are easier absorbent. Well that’s my theory.

  2. VB

    It works!!! Don’t know why but it does and great for your feet too!!

  3. JP

    I have had a nasty sinus infection for about 2 weeks. I am asthmatic but it is controlled with my inhalers. This sinus infection has created some irritation in my esophagus that causes me to cough and especially when I am laying down or relaxed in a recliner. Sleeping due to this nagging cough has been almost impossible for the last 7 days.
    I have been taking prescribed codeine cough medicine at night to attempt to stop the coughing so I could sleep but it has not helped. The codeine makes me sleepy but the coughing persisted.
    I stumbled across the home remedy of applying vicks to your feet. I was convinced it would not work and was reluctant to try. Two nights ago after coughing nonstop in bed I decided to try it. I got out of bed found the vicks, applied to my feet and covered my feet in socks. I went back to bed.
    I was completely surprised that I stopped coughing long enough to get some sleep. However, I did wake coughing a few times. After coughing all day yesterday, i decided to use the vicks again on the feet. I slept all night. What a relief. Today my coughing continues. I will use the vicks all day and again tonight. Perhaps not coughing will allow my esophagus to heal????

  4. Gretchen F.

    I would like to suggest that you confer with a Certified Reflexologist as to the possibility of why the Vicks helps with the cough response. There are some important Lung Points on the bottom of the feet that affect the Lung Meridians. Reflexology has a very long history with Chinese Medicine, so I expect there is a good explanation.

  5. Pat J

    This absolutely works for me. I usually get bronchitis at least 1-2 times per year and Vicks on the soles of my feet stops the cough so I can sleep. Usually works in 5-10 minutes.

  6. MR

    This is not about Vicks on the feet, but about viruses in general. They’re easier to prevent than most people think. At the very first sign of a cold I start taking elderberry extract and stay away from any sugar in my food. If I do this, I never get sick. Other people use other things, such as cayenne, oregano, andrographis, etc. Do a little research and experimenting, and you can very likely keep yourself and your family from getting sick in the first place. I don’t know about the other herbs, but I do know that elderberry extract is very safe for all ages.

  7. Pat J

    This absolutely works for me. I usually get bronchitis at least 1-2 times per year and Vicks on the soles of my feet stops the cough so I can sleep. Usually works in 5-10 minutes.

  8. Donna

    A note to the poster:
    My son used to have the same problem. He was diagnosed initially with “conditional asthma” and had to use inhalers whenever he got colds. They worked beautifully.
    In recent years, he was diagnosed as asthmatic and must take meds when he exercises.
    I highly recommend you discuss asthma and asthma meds with your doctor.
    Good luck.

  9. Gin

    I had read this on P.P. several yrs ago but had never tried it until one time in desperation when my husband was coughing, coughing at night and keeping us both awake, I massaged his feet with Vicks, he put on socks and we both got a good night’s sleep afterwards. That made me aware of how everything is absorbed into the skin and now I’m more careful as to what I put on my skin.

  10. Barb

    I tried this on my son when he had a cold over the winter. Put the Vicks on his feet and it stopped his cough really well. However, after a couple of days of this, he broke out in a red rash on his face, so I discontinued it’s use. Could one of the ingredients have caused the rash and if so, how do I figure out which one?

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