Jar of Vicks VapoRub

After abdominal surgery, coughing or laughing can cause excruciating pain. Although few people can laugh in such a situation, many will need to cough. How can you calm a cough to avoid the pain?

Putting Vicks VapoRub on the Feet to Calm a Cough:

Q. I was in the hospital for three weeks following major surgery for colon cancer. Needless to say, it was very painful to cough!

I had my husband bring Vicks VapoRub from home and asked the nurses to put it on the soles of my feet as a cough suppressant. They witnessed first-hand how well it worked to calm a cough. They said they couldn’t wait to try it on their kids.

A. Smearing Vicks VapoRub on the soles of the feet strikes many people as an improbable cough remedy. We have seen it work, however.

How Does Vicks Work?

Menthol, which is one of the ingredients in Vicks, is found in most cough lozenges. It inhibits coughing by stimulating specialized nerve endings found in the skin as well as the mouth and throat (Ebihara et al, Current Pharmaceutical Design, vol. 22, No. 15, 2016).  It works through the transient receptor potential, TRPM8. This TRP channel also senses cold (Janssens et al, Elife, July 23, 2016). Such action on the TRP channels may explain how Vicks VapoRub on the soles of the feet calms a cough.

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  1. Alise Beccaria, DAc
    Greensboro, NC

    As a Dr of Acupuncture the reason why Vicks Vapor Rub works on coughs is because the Kidney Channel begins on the soles of the feet and travels up the inner legs where it travels though the torso along side the midline up through the chest to right below the clavicle. One if the functions of the Kidney is the inhalation of the breath. So it totally makes sense!

  2. Gail
    Delray Beach

    My flight attendant roommate came home with a deep kennel cough. Though in another room in the house, his hacking kept me awake & I knew he had an early flight and needed rest. I slathered his feet in Vicks and put on his socks. Immediate relief…for both of us! I gave him a travel size tin to take with him. I am thankful for the PP and all of the informative posts.

  3. Nana5

    How much Vicks Vaporub would you use on your feet? Would you slather it all over the soles of the feet, or just a little bit? Would you then put socks on over it?

    • Judy
      St. Louis, MO

      For an adult, a quarter of a teaspoon, give or take depending on foot size, rubbed on the bottom of each foot should be plenty of Vicks. And I put on socks or footies to keep my sheets and/or shoes clean.

  4. Mary

    For many years I have kept Vicks on hand. I also got a small container of Mentholatum and found Vicks has an ingredient it does not have although both do have menthol. Vicks is much easier to find in stores. If you like the other, go online.

    If a bit stuffy, I will rub a little UNDER my nose, not in my nose. Either product will probably do a lot for that.

    Haven’t tried it on my feet yet since I would very rarely need it for coughing.

  5. Elizabeth

    I have tried Vicks for this purpose and it does work. Here’s another remedy, used in the same way of applying it to the bottoms of feet at bedtime wearing socks of course so it doesn’t come off on bed sheets! I use jojoba oil with a couple of drops of an oil called “Tranquility” both of these can be bought from a company called Pure Haven. No coughing at all using it and no questionable ingredients. The added benefit is very soft feet!

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