17 responses to “Vapor rub for treatment of nocturnal cough and cold symptoms in children”

  1. My grandmother, mother and i have used this therapy with good effects

  2. Confirms my mother in-laws advice, god help me!

  3. My mother used to put a mustard plaster on my chest; I don’t recall if it helped the cough but the relief when the plaster was removed was immense.

  4. Wow! So my wife was right all this time! Go figure. What will the EBM gurus think about this? Next they’ll acknowledge ginseng and echinacea for URI’s no doubt!

  5. I used to do it as child.

  6. Old good remedy

  7. This was my mother’s remedy and admit I have used it on myself and my children with benefit.

  8. I agree

  9. Yes, I was given vaporub treatments as a child. I suspect the improvement is partly because of the decongestant properties but also due to the placebo effect of having had a nice rub from your parent and the smell lingers on to remind you and comfort you.

  10. I am still waiting for the day when the the old fashioned mustard plaster will return, or using vaporub in the old hot steam vapourizers. If we make it back further to “cupping” then my bubby will forever taake the place as the first doctor in our family.

  11. Another way to keep parents busy while nature does its job.

  12. placebo works too

  13. Yes, have been doing this for years with my own kids but glad to know it may not have been just a placebo effect. I will definitely recommend this, espcially with few alternatives.

  14. When I went to medical school and according to every pediatrician I have talked to since, you do not recommend Vapor rub due to its high risk of potential side effects. Personally I have very fond memories of it, and would dearly love for it to be good to recommend. But with very little searchimg I found the following:

    Vaporub is still not the answer

    Virginia Feldman, pediatrician
    Kaiser Northwest

    Dr. Paul’s study (1) of the comparative effects of Vaporub, petrolatum and placebo on cold symptoms has so many deficiencies that I was disappointed there was no accompanying editorial; this article could be seriously misused by many parents and pediatricians. First, Dr. Paul is a paid consultant for Proctor and Gamble, maker of Vicks Vaporub. Second, the study was not blinded; and 100% of parents guessed correctly they were giving Vaporub. Third, the study was of only 44 children. Fourth, on a 7 point Likert scale of symptom severity, one must question the clinical significance of a difference of only 1-1.5 points between placebo and Vaporub. (i.e. on most symptoms, placebo parents judged severity going from a baseline of 5 to 4, and Vaporub from a baseline of 5 to 3). Is this worth the 46% adverse effects Paul et al found? (Coming from the era of Vaporub ‘attacks’ as a child, I remember the burning eyes and chest being worse than the cold). I fear Paul’s conclusions will get into parent magazines, and we’ll again see camphor poisonings; (40 cc being potentially fatal in a child < 6 years). And if parents misuse it on their infants, as they do other cold medicines, seizures can result, which Paul mentions only in passing.(2)

    As after most first studies, it is very hard to reverse practice when larger studies, from unbiased researchers, come out negative–or don't come out, since so few negative studies ever got published.

    A provocative article (3) recently discussed "declining results." This describes a definite phenomenon in which most subsequent studies show less –or no effect, and occurs above and beyond the well-known factor of regression to the mean. Many researchers have shown it: initially positive reports are usually not replicated.

    Pediatricians must beware to not support parents using Vaporub based on an initial study using such questionable methods, lest we replace one poor treatment for colds (oral cough medicines), with another. As the PEDIATRICS article following Pauls' demonstrates, adverse effects from cough medications continue to occur even after AAP and FDA proscriptions and market withdrawal.

    Virginia Feldman MD FAAP 11230 SW Collina Ave. Portland, Or 97219 Locums pediatrician Kaiser Permanente NW

    1. Paul, Ian P, et al: Vapor Rub, petrolatum, and no treatment for children with nocturnal cough and cold symptoms. Pediatrics. 2010,126:1092 -99. 2. Shannon M, et al.Toxic seizures in children: case scenarios and treatment strategies. Pediatr-Emerg Care. 2003,19(3);206-10. 3. Lehrer, Jonah. The Truth wears off. The New Yorker.2010, Dec 13:52-57 4. Shehab, Nadine et al. Adverse events from cough and cold medications after a market withdrawal of products labeled for infants. Pediatrics. 2010, 126: 1100-07.

    Conflict of Interest:

    None declared

  15. I use this on my own four children very often, and recommend it to patients too; but I also still use the OTC preparations, and recommend it (in small doses) to patients.

  16. Have used 1000 iu / day for myself and family and encourage all my adult patients to do the same

  17. Rarely treat children anymore , but worth knowing.

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