How does Vapor Rub work?
The short answer: the research is still not clear. A study of 144 children conducted in 2008-2010, published in Pediatrics (2011) revealed that petrolatum-based vapor medicines like Vick’s Vapor Rub helps to alleviate the symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection (URI.) The exact mechanism for achieving this, however, remains unknown.
Doctors tested whether a bedtime application of a petrolatum product containing camphor – vapor rub (VR) – to the chest of a child would result in parental reports of improvement of the child’s symptoms, as well as improved child sleep. Tested also was parental sleep, with applications of the VR being given to the parents. The findings were significant; the VR group tested better for symptoms than the no-treatment group, and also, for the non-VR, petrolatum group.
Researchers have theorized as to why the camphor might improve symptoms, including the (perceived) sensation of improved airflow. In fact, finding no discernible causal link, the researchers go so far as to suggest that the improvement in symptoms may be entirely the result of perception or placebo effect. Whatever the reason, VR rubs appear to offer a possible intervention for children and parents suffering the effects of upper respiratory tract infection.
Can you use Vick’s Vapor Rub When Pregnant?
In the case of a mother using a product such as Vick’s Vapor Rub during pregnancy there is nothing to suggest that VR rubs would be harmful to an unborn child. The three main ingredients, menthol, eucalyptus, and camphor, are safe during pregnancy.
I heard you could use Vick’s Vapor Rub on Feet?
The application of Vick’s Vapor Rub on feet is another possible example of the aforementioned placebo effect. There have been no official studies conducted (yet) to demonstrate the effectiveness of this foot-based approach; Snopes , Detective Skeptic , and other fact-finding websites have all produced articles to this point, addressing the litany of personal testimonials and ringing endorsements. That is, the public continues to assert the legitimacy of vapor rubs on the feet used to treat chest congestion and other ailments.
Uses for Vapor Rub
The uses for VR formulas vary beyond what has been mentioned so far, including use for dry skin, tension headaches , eczema, counteracting asthma triggers , toenail fungus, and tennis elbow. The vapor formulas and applications themselves vary considerably as well. For example, next time before using a vapor rub, try one of these suggestions in a humidifier for the same type of nasal-clearing effects:
- White Camphor (the active ingredient in Vick’s Vapor Rub) oil.
- Eucalyptus oil, another ingredient, is great for clearing congestion and asthma.
- Lavender oil achieves the same effects, but is even gentler on infants, and works for asthma too.
Be it through public trial, or scientific study, the signs seem to be indicating that the traditional vapor rub formula(s) are viable treatments for both children and adults suffering from URI. As the science progresses doctors will hopefully have a better understanding of how the exact mechanism responsible behaves.