Q. My three-year-old son continues to have problems with ear infections, even though he got ear tubes when he was eight months old. He now has another infection with chest congestion and a cough.

I was looking for home remedies for coughs when I found your website. I read about putting Vicks VapoRub on the soles of the feet. Within ten minutes of applying it, he was asleep without a cough. Thanks!

A. We can’t explain how smearing Vicks on the soles of the feet could take away a cough, but many others have told us it works. Be sure to put socks on him to protect the sheets.

Other readers have also tried this remedy. DS said: 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.”

MS offered this opinion:Vicks Menthol Rub has been around since the early 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.”

MS is correct that the syrups and cold remedies parents could buy in the drugstore don’t work very well for children and may in fact pose risks. We have included this and many other home remedies for both kids and adults with coughs or  colds in our Guide to Colds, Coughs and the Flu.

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  1. Bonoca

    Was hesitant but I tried this last night and it really does work. My husband was thrilled because I’ve been keeping him up the last week with my cough. Definitely use socks so you don’t soil your sheets. Cotton seems to work best for this. Thank you!

  2. alan

    works for me, & I use a CPAP with the intake 6-7 ft from my feet.

  3. Mari S.

    Several of my grandchildren (from different families) had multiple ear infections, tubes, etc. After hearing that Canada recommends 2,000 IU’s of vitamin D3 for two year olds and up in order to prevent illnesses and save on medical expenses, the grandchildren regularly took vitamin D3–the tiny gel-like caps. They enjoy chewing them up. TaDa–no more ear infections and hardly any colds, flus, coughs, etc. If they do get some flu bug, it’s very mild.

  4. MimiB

    My mother used to rub Vicks Vaporub on my and my brother’s chest when we had coughs… she’d tie a flannel bandana around our chests too, to cover up the Vicks [partly so it wouldn’t soil the sheets and our night clothes I suspect] and to keep our chests warm. I can’t prove it helped, but it seemed to. At the very least it caused a comfortably warm sensation that seemed to relieve our symptoms somewhat.
    Oh, and we’d take mother’s cough medicine … doled out in spoonfuls from a flowery tea cup reserved for this purpose … of warmed honey, lemon juice and a bit of brandy or whisky… It, along with the Vicks, seemed to help, though I suspect her version of a toddy just helped put us to sleep, which was a blessing for all. I used these remedies on my children too, with similar results. They now use them with their children. May I add… no one in our family is alcoholic. I would never suggest giving spirits to someone who had a problem with alcohol, but note that the modest amounts of “medicinal” spirits used by our family didn’t lead to alcoholism either.
    Even today when my husband or I have a chesty cold and cough I make a a warm toddy with similar ingredients [adding a cinnamon stir stick] taken before bedtime and it helps us get to sleep. Mother knew best, so I think I’ll add Vicks back into our regimen. It can’t hurt and is certainly less toxic and cheaper than today’s over the counter cold remedies.

  5. Toni Acock

    My mother rubbed vicks vaporub on our chests when we had bad coughs. It worked then and it does now. I do not know why but it worked for my children too. It seems to break up the congestion and enable us to breath easier and sleep better.
    I know doctors say this doesn’t work but it surely does in our family.

  6. JG

    Another use for athlete’s foot—-I use Vick’s Vapo Rub It works, but I apply it every morning and night.

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