Vicks Vaporub on your feet?

*Hi reader, it’s been almost three years since I wrote this post and I have learned a lot since then. I don’t want to irrevocably change this post because I think that would be wrong. Instead, I’m going to insert my evolved opinions in the text, in red like this. I hope you enjoy the post and please leave a comment. This week someone sent me an email about using Vicks Vaporub on your feet to combat a cough. Here it is;

Vicks Vaporub and Cough

During a lecture on Essential Oils, they told us how the foot soles can absorb oils. Their example: Put garlic on your feet and within 20 minutes you can ‘taste’ it. (This line is in a different font from the email that follows, thus it was probably added by someone other than the original author of the email. I have not altered the font.)

Some of us have used Vicks Vaporub for years for everything from chapped lips to sore toes and many body parts in between. But I’ve never heard of this. And don’t laugh, it works 100% of the time, although the scientists who discovered it aren’t sure why (This is important, the email claims that scientists discovered the effect). To stop night time coughing in a child (or adult as we found out personally), put Vicks Vaporub generously on the bottom of the feet at bedtime, then cover with socks. Even persistent, heavy, deep coughing will stop in about 5 minutes and stay stopped for many, many hours of relief. Works 100% of the time and is more effective in children than even very strong prescription cough medicines. In addition it is extremely soothing and comforting and they will sleep soundly.

Just happened to tune in A.M. Radio and picked up this guy talking about why cough medicines in kids often do more harm than good, due to the chemical makeup of these strong drugs so, I listened. It was a surprise finding and found to be more effective than prescribed medicines for children at bedtime, in addition to have a soothing and calming effect on sick children who then went on to sleep soundly.

My wife tried it on herself when she had a very deep constant and persistent cough a few weeks ago and it worked 100%! She said that it felt like a warm blanket had enveloped her, coughing stopped in a few minutes and believe me, this was a deep, (incredibly annoying!) every few seconds uncontrollable cough, and she slept cough-free for hours every night that she used it.

If you have grandchildren, pass this on. If you end up sick, try it yourself and you will be absolutely amazed at how it works!

The request attached was for the Skeptic to please be gentle on me!”

meercat

meercat

Ok, I will try my hardest to be gentle, this won’t hurt me a bit!

I think that this is yet another example of a chain e-mail which trades on the same old logical fallacies in an attempt to spread false information.

1. There is the Appeal to Authority:

During a lecture on Essential OilsWho was giving the lecture? Which college / university was it held at?

the scientists who discovered it”During which trial was this discovered? Where was it published and by whom? This may seem pedantic, but any real scientific trial is published, and the information is available to the public. If “scientists” had discovered this they would have published.

Scientists publish their work so that their peers can review their methods to ensure that the procedures followed were sound and do not present any glaring errors or omissions. This is an essential feature of science.

(The email claims that this discovery was made by scientists, yet no proof of any such discovery is available.)

2. The author uses loads of Anecdotal Evidence

My wife tried it on herself”

And don’t laugh, it works 100% of the time”

Some of us have used Vicks Vaporub for years for everything

I have a list of the 20 most common logical fallacies on my website. A logical fallacy is, basically, a flawed argument. People use logical fallacies when they have nothing stronger to base their argument on. An argument which uses logical fallacies should not be trusted.

Now let’s look at the bad information used in this e-mail;

The foot soles can absorb oils

Your skin is an amazing barrier and is virtually impermeable. If this were true putting cheese in your socks would allow you to taste cheese. Doesn’t quite seem right does it?

(Hey, I’m wrong on this point! The skin absorbs substances that are put on it. I’m sure there must be a limit in the molecule size which would allow my skin to absorb nicotine from a patch but not the desk my arms are resting on, but I don’t know what it is and I made a mistake here. There is a great comment on this post that explains this in detail.)

put Vicks Vaporub generously on the bottom of the feet at bedtime, then cover with socks

Vicks only recommends using this product on the chest and throat for relief of a cough. Don’t you think they would print on the label “Put it on your feet” if it ACTUALLY worked 100% of the time?

(I stand by this statement, if it worked like this 100% of the time, Vicks would recommend you use it this way. The fact that they don’t raises my skeptical eyebrows, but doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work. I think it reflects the abundance of anecdotal evidence, and the lack of rigorous, placebo-controlled testing.)

more effective in children than even very strong prescription cough medicines

Oh, Really? Prove it, I say, and with controlled trials, not anecdotal evidence.

(Since I wrote this post I have learned that over the counter cough syrups have no effect beyond placebo. I’m not sure about prescription medicines. I still want scientific evidence, however, that Vicks on the feet is more effective than prescription drugs for treating a cough.)

Just happened to tune in A.M. Radio and picked up this guy talking about why cough medicines in kids often do more harm than good, due to the chemical makeup of these strong drugs so, I listened. It was a surprise finding and found to be more effective than prescribed medicines for children at bedtime

Would you trust some guy you happened to hear on the radio? The author doesn’t even take the time to mention who this person is. This is a major red flag and makes me think that this (section) was made up out of whole cloth. For that matter, don’t trust what you read on my website without questioning every assumption and testing every premise (this has been vigorously performed on this post and I’m very glad! I don’t resent being challenged).

There are a few other blatant problems with this e-mail, I will leave it up to you to figure them out.

 

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335 responses to “Vicks Vaporub on your feet?

  1. I am going to try this rub on feet thing. Why not, can’t hurt right?

    Plus there are many Rx’s that doctors use ‘off label’.

  2. I am currently fighting off a bad cold. Last night my cough was getting very bad. My wife mentioned this mentholatum on the feet thing. I thought it was one if the dumbest things I’d ever heard. Still, to make her happy, I tried it. It worked. Tonight I was having another coughing fit and tried it again. It worked again.

    I’m not claiming this is proof. I just think it helps to disprove placebo effect since I first thought it was a stupid hoax.

    Anecdotal experiences are definitely not science. But aren’t they often what spurs an interest in actual efficacy research? I’m sure this “treatment” doesn’t work for everyone and is wildly unpredictable. That is probably why it’s not recommended on the label. But it doesn’t hurt to try it.

    • Totally agree! I thought the same & then thought ‘why not try it? ‘ It worked! Not just the first night but every night I did it & not just for a cough either. I tried it when I first got a blocked nose – woke the next morning to no blockage. Again when I had a runny nose a few weeks later & what do you know – it worked again! I’m not one to believe fads but anything is worth a try. You can’t discount something if you personally haven’t tried it. Also, what works for some may not work for others. All I can say is try it yourself before forming any opinion! I feel sorry for the skeptic, not even willing to try it themselves but happy to disagree with people who have. Not all home remedies are hoaxes, many of them existed well before our modern medicines.

  3. Skeptic, Angela? Or just bitter? Not everything that isn’t proven by science is a hoax. These kinds of treatments have been used for hundreds of years. Ask the Chinese, for instance. U.S. families have been using Vaporub on feet for eons. It works for many, just as duct tape can remove a plantar’s wart (which Mayo Clinic now confirms). Even if you could debunk the Vaporub practice, what have you accomplished? Is your life so meaningless that you spend your days finding fault in everything and everyone? I feel for ya.

  4. I tried this for my cough. Sorry but it made me sick within hours. I got a foul taste in my mouth and was gagging. Never again will i put vicks on my feet. Feel better now i scrubbed my feet . oh that was horrifying!.

  5. I saw a link online that listed things you can use vicksvapour rub for and putting it on your feet was one of them. As I had a cold and a nasty cough I thought id give it ago. It was amazing! Within minutes I was cough free. Recommended it to a friend who had the same problem and the next morning she said she’d slept like a baby all night. I totally agree that it works 100%

  6. My child has been coughing non stop ever since I put her to bed….I’m talking every thirty seconds she’s coughing. I put Vic’s on her feet, then put socks on, and left the room. After a little while, she was still coughing and I wondered if I put it on for nothing, and then all of a sudden her coughing stopped. It has been an hour now, and she hasn’t coughed once. I have done this in the past and I will always swear by it!

  7. Angela-

    Stumbled across your article directly after reading this one by David Emery, thought you would like to read it as well :

    http://urbanlegends.about.com/od/medical/a/vicks_for_cough.htm

    He begins with a version of the well circulated email, but goes on with some insightful sounding (if somewhat poorly cited) commentary.

    The second page in particular felt relevant to your essay, for me it elucidated the possibility that perhaps these elusive scientists with their phantom studies were actually references to scientific communities spanning ancient Greeks to late 19th centuries, time period before well-circulated published studies were the norm.Perhaps we have a chrono bias because we assume we are talking about Vick’s vaporub, which is modern , and not some of its active ingredients, which are ancient.

    Just food for thought. Doesn’t change the uncertainty regarding the underlying mechanism, but I guess it made me reflect that perhaps the email author’s seemingly fabricated or false information might just be poorly digested and unskillfully regurgitated facts.

  8. The Vicks cure seemed to work for me on my episode of coughing, although I took other things. The thing that concerns me is *diagnosis*. Who says you have a cold? Was it a sort of allergy? Very mild flu? Mild SARS? Beginning of meningitis? A cold could be definitely diagnosed by an immunogen test so you would know which of the >200 viruses was causing your cold. No doctor has ever given me that test, so how could one be sure one has a cold!!! I would recommend the vicks cure to any friend, but not at the risk of avoiding medical care.

  9. I don’t know if it works for everybody. I don’t know WHY it works for me and my son, but seems to not work for my husband. I don’t know WHY it works for some people and not others. It could be a combination of prescription meds, vicks, and cough drops. Or, no specific combination at all. It may be all in your head. It may be that science COULD prove it works for whatever reason. The point is, if some people try it, and it works for them, what’s the harm in allowing them to go with it?? I would LOVE for them to do studies on this to see if there is actually some scientific basis for it’s effectiveness, or if it’s all hokey. Really, I don’t care. Alot of “home remedies” are things that our past relatives did that worked for them. Just remember, before tearing someone apart for believing in any remedy, that ALL of our current, scientifically proven medications were once just plants. Foxglove for heart problems. Cocaine for numbing agents and coughs. Calendula (marigold) tea for high blood pressure. If it works for YOU, then I say go for it. If not, fine. Just go on and keep trying til you find something that does…..

  10. I am on day three of bronchitis. NOTHING relieved my cough; during the day I could handle it and wanted to keep it productive, but coughing all night is awful. In desperation, read about the vapo rub on feet; tried it; within minutes, no more coughing and slept soundly. Three nights in a row; same thing. I am not using OTC or prescription cough medicines at all. It really, really does work . It is definitely worth trying.

  11. Just used it on my granddaughter today who has been coughing all morning. I did not want to give her oral medicine. She’s now running around. No coughing in last hour. Just saying.

  12. Whether or not scientific or medically proven, from personal experience, I know the Vicks on the feet treatment works to cure cough. That, and the salted boiled orange treatment.

      • An anecdote is evidence, but of poor reliability. A ‘scientific report’ may be better, we would hope much better evidence. We are talking about Vicks stopping coughing… but what was the diagnosis. Surely no one is suggesting that Vicks would have a benefiit against a cough caused by lung cancer, for example…

        • Yes, I can’t remember where I read it (Bad Science, possibly), but I remember someone saying “anecdotes don’t count as evidence, but they do waggle their eyebrows suggestively and say ‘look over there’.”

          I’d love to see this investigated, although it probably won’t be, because there is a suggestion of an effect. However, until we can rule out placebo, we can’t say that the Vicks is stopping the coughs.

  13. This does work. I recently had a cold with a cough. I saw this on my Facebook page and decided to try it. I slept through the night and by morning the cold was leaving my body. That was three days ago and I’ve been cold free 48 hours.

    • So, your evidence for efficacy here is that your cold cleared up?

      Colds are, essentially, untreatable. What we do is treat the symptoms and discomfort and wait for them to go away.

  14. I tried this earlier after using rx cough meds all week to no aval, and it worked. I can’t explain it. All I can tell you is that mucinex, tesslon pearles, and robitussion didn’t do anything. All I’ve had today is Vicks on my feet- my cough stopped shortly after putting it on. I’m good with caulking it up to magic.

    • You do know that over the counter cough medicines have been proven to have no positive effect on a cough, beyond placebo?

      • I am in favor of trying Vicks in socks on the feet, ……but there is no chance whatever that the posted comment “You do know that over the counter cough medicines have been proven to have no positive effect on a cough, beyond placebo?” has the slightest chance of being correct!! Numerous OTC remedies including codeine (Canada) and dextromethorphan are highly effective against many coughs.

  15. I see that there are many people on here saying “it worked for my kid” so you don’t know what you are talking about. The thing is, I have tried this many times on both of my children and it did nothing for them at all ! (other than make them aggravated that I put something sticky on their feet and shoved socks over them) So there goes the claim of it working 100 percent of the time. That statement alone is a massive red flag, no medication, not ever prescription drugs work 100 percent of the time. That’s just asinine to say that. As for it being stronger than any prescription cough medications that is the most asinine and absurd statement I have ever heard. Prescription cough medications are very strong and help tremendously. I know this because my daughter has a long dysfunction. Many of the times if you child has an on going wet cough it needs antibiotics….not vicks !

    I have a few home remedies that truly do work, so I dont want to come across as saying they are all hocus pocus however, the thing is that this is another one that might have a little truth to it but is in no way a substitute for prescription meds. If that was the case do you know not think you would see a bunch of children in a children’s hospital sleeping with vicks and socks on their feet ???

    • Well said Nichole. I agree with your logical opinions. That’s a bold statement to say that Vick’s Vaporub put on the feet is a cure-all and works 100% of the time!
      Yep, for sure a red flag!

  16. You can say whatever you like about it. Try it, it works! I have four kids under 5 and when they get a virus they all get the virus. A virus cannot be treated with anitibiotics and my youngest gets asthma when he gets a respiratory virus. Smearing vicks on the soles of their feet and covering with socks and a warm doona is the best remedy. Give it 20 minutes and its sweet dreams for ALL. I am only on here now as one of my sons is lying on the lounge with a dry persistent cough. I put the vicks on his feet and the socks and put a blanket on him I sat with him watching some TV and low and behold 20 minutes later silence and a much more peaceful son, happily watching TV.

  17. I too am a skeptic of all things. I, a nurse, had read this email or something similar. Interesting, but probably a bunch of hype. Some months later, my toddler son was up coughing horribly for hours and hours one night….the cough was so extreme, so severe, I started to think that we were going to have to go to the ER in the middle of the night. There was simply no way that he could continue much longer with such relentless, gagging, all consuming coughing. In desperation, as a last ditch effort before an ER trip (that would have costed a 1,000 dollar deductible) I remembered having read about this vapo rub on the feet. Not believing that it would work, but willing to try anything, I put some vapo rub on his feet and within 3 minutes he totally stopped coughing. He slept 4-5 hours soundly, no cough. . 2 months ago I had a child spend the night sleeping on my sofa…he coughed non stop for about 45 minutes when I finally got up and put the vapo rub on his feet. Again…within 2 minutes, the coughing stopped completely and he slept for the rest of the night with no coughing. I have noticed that if you use it repeatedly close together, it isn’t as effective.

      • I think we may need to accept that the manufacturers are never going to conduct any clinical trials – why should they? They have a good product market, and have already tested it elsewhere on the body. If people find it works better on the feet than chest so be it. The smell of it makes me cough so I can imagine it being on my feet would stop that happening.
        Not everything has to be proven by science. If you tell me when you have a headache you put a cold flannel on your forehead and it helps, who am I to tell you it doesn’t?

        • Even the medicines that have been scientifically proven to be effective, aren’t effective for everyone. I can attest to that one myself. I can go on all day about the home remedies I have tried using products for uses not specified on their packaging that have WORKED for me. And this one in particular, works for me and my husband and the friend that suggested it to us and obviously for over half of the commenters on here, so why not live and let live and be done with it. Look at all the lives lost to all the scientifically proven pharmaceuticals that have been approved, that only work for some, but wind up crippling or killing others. It’s just Vicks. There’s no harm in trying it, placebo or not, if it helps you isn’t that the point after all?

    • I found if use it back to back not quite as effective also. I found if I take 5-10 steps after i put my socks back on it is more effective. I don’t know why..guessing the pressure more is absorbed in the body.

  18. I don’t know why or how it works but I have a terrible cough and couldn’t sleep so in despair last night I decided to try this “dumb” idea I heard of and put Vicks vapor rub on my feet. So I slathered it on put on socks and lay back down and to my extreme surprise IT WORKS!!!! I slept great with NO cough whereas a little bit ago I had been coughing almost continually and was freaking miserable. All I know is I’m so doing this again tonight and recommending it to like everyone I know

  19. This might give you some evidence for the nail fungus claims. Have a look on Google scholar, there’s been quite a lot of research into the anti fungal properties of eucalyptus oil

  20. Well, I tried it, and it worked in the sense that the improvement to my long-term chronic cough was quite dramatic. This was three days ago. Because I was so violently sick I tried other things also simultaneously: taking pantoprazole very regularly to prevent reflux (a common cause of cough) and adding cetirizine daily to block nasal congestion (a common cause of post-nasal drip, which in turn is a common cause of chronic cough) and sucking on Hall’s mentholyptus more frequently. Wearing thick socks prevented any seepage from the vapor-rub (Walmart clone); and discontinuing all alcohol and coffee and any other irritant such as peppers..

    My cough improved rapidly and very noticeably. It has bedeviled me since 2007, at least 6 years, so this is a big deal. I have something to thank the medical profession in Canada for, but **not much**…. so I will continue to use the vapor-rub, and report back in a couple of weeks… this is a very low-risk test therapy, if all else has failed.

  21. I tried it seem to work. I have asthma when I get a cold, night time cough is a major problem. My Pharmacist recommended it…after a laugh I tried it, relieved the cough. Never took it totally away, but subdued it enough for a good night sleep. I don’t know if it will work on every cold but will be trying it again.

  22. I’m open minded. I tried it and it worked……to make perfectly a greasy mess out of my socks and bed sheets. That’s it. Had to throw my socks out. Did nothing for my cough. The idea behind Vicks is that it is aromatic. You inhale the vapors to open your lungs and sinuses. It doesn’t work through the skin to do anything. Your feet are a long way from your nose. People who think it works by putting it on their feet are buying into a stupid chain email of Vicks on the Feet. They’re the ones who believe if you send that person you don’t know, a certain amount of cash, you’ll get money from a Lottery that you never entered.

    • My husband uses it on his feet whenever he feels a cold coming on..he told me to do it a few months ago when I had a terrible cough that kept me awake, sore ribs ftom severe, to the point of gagging coughing..within 5 minutes coughing ceased! I got a great nights sleep…my daughter caught a cold and shared with me this past sunday..I immediately began vicks on feet that night..cold lasted only 3 days..for me they usually last 2weeks so this is great! I’m no longer sceptical..it truly works :-)

      • Another untested anecdote that could just as easily be explained by the placebo effect. I’m glad you’re feeling better, but this is low quality evidence.

        • we get it! your replies are redundant. if you don’t like the idea and you don’t feel there is enough evidense, then don’t use it.

  23. As the author has stated in the comments, her main concern isn’t whether or not it works. It’s WHY it works.Obviously people need to step back and stop readily believing emails they read, but that is another point completely. Vicks contains camphor, something that can be toxic to your children. There is a reason they do not tell you to put it on your children’s feet. I hate to tell you, it’s probably not because they are running a big conspiracy to have you buy cough medicine. There is a chance it could hurt your child. Please be aware.

    • Sorry, I had to laugh. Camphor has been used in numerous methodologies for eons. I am absolutely positive there has been abuse in applications. That being said, however, I believe it is ALL about the medicine/drugs and how much of it can be shoved down the consumer’s throat. And, I am going to be terribly concerned about this particular application for my children, given the alternative and exponentially potential side effects of other drugs? Really?

  24. Hate to say it but doctors now recommend people put Vicks on toe nail fungus and its been proven to work 100%. Its even been proven to work more so than any of the synthetic drugs given to people for this condition. Yet Vicks doesn’t mention anything about this on their instructions. Its not impossible for it to have many other uses. Vicks is composed of natural substances, eucalyptus, camphor , and menthol. These are essential oils and naturally you can’t make a claim with natural products. Where ever the ‘wives tale’ came from , I can say it sure does help. But you also could use something like Eucalyptus , Frankincense and Black Cumin ( 1tsp of carrier oil, to 9 drops of Essential Oil) and apply to the feet. Essential Oils are made up of smaller molecules so that your body can absorb them. You would not absorb a piece of cheese because the molecules are to large for your skin to absorb. But your skin CAN absorb essential oils.
    Vicks doesn’t put it on their ingredients list because it can’t make those claims due to the FDA. Being a soaper who uses Essential Oils in her soaps, this I do know.
    Also if your reading this, think. Our skin is not impervious to everything. There are synthetic medications made that are put on patches for what>?? The Skin to absorb. It works the same way with Essential Oils as well.

    • Hi Tracy, Can you provide some facts to back up the claim of Vicks being 100% effective against toe nail fungus?

  25. Vicks doesn’t advise putting their chest-rub on your feet, because they want you to buy their cough syrup! The chest rub is cheaper than the cough syrup, so they lose money if people learn these little secrets. I think they make an anti-fungal product too, because they deny the claims about the chest-rub curing fungus under the toe-nails, but I know a few people who have had great success with it. It’s like the shampoo manufacturers saying you shouldn’t use baking soda to wash your hair–the only real downside is to their finances.

    BTW, there’s a whole school of alternative medicine claiming that manipulating the soles of the feet (massage, pressure, etc) can impact every aspect of the body–different areas of the feet for respiratory, headaches, digestion, and so on. I don’t follow it, but they might actually be onto something. Since “serious” medical organizations don’t often test alternative medicine, there may never be any solid data.

    • Conspiracy theories are very easy to make up and very difficult to prove. But Vicks is made by a company and the whole point of being in business is to make as much money as possible. Who knows what marketing decisions they might make.

      As far as the soles of the feet having influence on your body, it’s called reflexology and it is based on the unproven assumption that some magical energy force connects parts of our body to one another. There is no evidence that reflexology has any curative power, although a foot massage does feel good.

      • You are so annoying! Why do you keep jumping in putting people down? If it works 4 them why do you need evidence..?Are you a doctor or a scientist..or just someone with a lot
        of time? If they tried it they know for sure if it does or doesn’t work. Why don’t you try it next time you’re up all night with a sick child. Which I highly doubt you have given you have all this time being a know it all with no answers yourself. When a parent hears that awful sound coming from their child’s room they would try anything..And I thank all of for your comments because you’re speaking from experience and I know my battle with bronchitis and my 7year old has another option that may work that’s enough for me..but I know Angela NO EVIDENCE! BLAH!

        • Amen sister. I’d rather have Vicks on my feet then ingest man-made medicine to stop coughing. It works, for me at least. And it keeps my feet warm too. Win, win, win :-)

  26. “No, I won’t try it. I will get antibiotics and treat it with medicines that have been proven to be effective.” -Angela

    Over using antibiotics means you are contributing to diseases such as TB that can no longer be treated by antibiotics. Maybe you should just be a little more open and less critical. Who effing cares if Vick’s on the feet doesn’t work? It isn’t causing deathly diseases to mutate and costing people their lives, either. But you are, apparently, and endorsing others do the same while touting yourself as some sort of reliable source of information.

    1 Colds are not even affected by antibiotics unless there is an infection along with the virus. You treat the symptoms, like cough syrup or Vick’s, or chicken soup. Whatever makes you feel better. Most colds go away leaving your body’s immune system stronger and more able to protect you. (This is the basis of how the flu shot works, allowing your body to gain immunity to a weakened strain of the latest mutation of the common flu virus.) The discomfort of the cold does suck, but it also serves a purpose. I’m not even going to cite an article. Google it. Ask your doctor. Its common knowledge.

    2 Over prescribing antibiotics is a bigger problem than any cold. It causes diseases that are currently treatable by antibiotics to mutate beyond the effects of the antibiotics. Its pretty well documented EVERYWHERE, but here is one link:
    http://www.economist.com/node/18483671. You don’t even have to take the time to read it, it has audio.

    And another thing: Yes, real research is published. Usually in trade journals. Meaning the public has little access to the research or ways of even knowing about it. I can’t afford to subscribe to medical journals, nor would I be particularly adept at understanding them as I am not trained in medical practices or vocabulary. Specialization and all that. Like the vast majority of the public, I have little choice but to use research of publicly printed articles driven by company profit goals (or minimization of costs) to get information I need, or hope that my doctor is up to date on the information I need, despite the unruly system our country has for distributing new knowledge. If you have a solution, we would love to hear it. Until then, perhaps you could temper your disdain of people’s reliance on anecdotal sources with a little empathy. We all just doing the best we can and it doesn’t sound like you are doing any better.

    Research the most effective types of advertising. Because the most effective ones are NOT data driven. Just like sex sells, emotion based advertising is more effective than dry data. Just because a something is marketed with a technique that could be used for a swindle, doesn’t mean it is a swindle. It does mean that people are more moved by emotional ploys that research. And stats can easily be manipulated, ask anyone in statistical analysis.

    That one condescending statement was really offensive. Is using antibiotics really superior to being open enough to trying a home remedy based off anecdotal experiences? Which has the greater potential for harm?

    I found the article doing research of Vick’s on the feet. Applying it to my chest has never worked for more than few minutes. But after awakening over and over the other night being unable to breathe, I tried putting it on my feet. What the hell. No idea how it worked. I enjoyed the blog post, commend you on the corrections and updates, and read and enjoyed a lot of the comments. But I won’t be back, nor would I EVER recommend this site. Now, I don’t even care how Vick’s on my feet worked. But I do care that it won’t contribute to my family ever losing another nineteen year old or raising any more motherless children. To me, that is far more important.

  27. Angela,

    Nothing is “provable” in science. The scientific method consists of the inability to disprove. Lack of disproof is not proof.

  28. I am a fan of vicks on the feet. My kids and I have had colds a lot lately and I use vicks on their chests and feet every night. My fiancee ended up with our cold. He had gone to work and a customer of his said to him, I dont know how it works but it does… put vicks on your feet put on thick socks cover up and sweat out the fever. He smiled at her and came home to tell me I wasn’t completely crazy. He is asleep on the couch with vicks on his feet and the cough of every 2 minutes has been about an hohr of silence so far. Yeah it might not be scientific but for me as a mom and the woman of the house I am loving the old woves tale. Science can kiss my butt my house is cough free with vicks on feet.

  29. I just read the link. 1) Using vicks on the feet is nothing at all like a paranormal experience lol. And 2) when it gets to a situation similar to what is discussed in this post, it more supports that anecdotal testimonials are acceptable in medicine. I haven’t yet seen anyone say that it absolutely did not work for them. These claims are easily tested. How many different scenarios does there need to be? No cough medicine, no vicks. Then, no cough medicine, vicks applied. Then cough medicine, no vicks. Think I could get a grant to test it? I hope I’m not sounding rude…I don’t mean to!

  30. Ok…there has been scientific testing performed on all prescription drugs, correct? And yet how often do we see advertising for lawyers wanting to represent families in wrongful death suits as a result of those same drugs? My daughter stated coughing yesterday. She was feeling worse and hacking worse at bedtime and trying to blow her poor stopped up nose. When she got in bed, I put vicks on the bottom of her feet because I had done it once before. She is sleeping and breathing much more easily. And she has not coughed since I put the vicks on her feet.

    I don’t know why it works, but it does. Cough medicine last night did nothing. Drs say don’t bring your child in for a cold. So yes, I will try this remedy. It only happens once or twice a year. I don’t think that amount of camphor on her feet twice a year is any more cumulatively dangerous than the ink absorbed into her skin throughout the school year because for some reason at ten they start writing on themselves.

    Maybe we can all videotape and YouTube the with and without nights?

  31. Ok so a few days ago I put some cheese in my sox. It’s still there but I don’t taste it.
    I’m going to try wine next.

  32. Angela – very refreshing to read those edits. While most would have either dug their heels in, disabled commenting or taken down their post – I would know, I LOVE to argue, and it happens a lot :) – you amended some of your statements and clarified your position based on new outcomes since the time you wrote your article. Congrats, and thank you.

    • Thank you for the compliment Xil.
      My position on this is not an emotional one. It was based on the information I had available to me at the time I wrote the article. I’m not too proud to admit when I am wrong.

  33. Just tried this, don’t yet know if it works. Regardless, in the (slightly modified) words of Inigo Montoya, “You keep using this word, ‘anecdotal evidence.’ I don’t think it means what you think it means.” You seem to think that the difference between anecdotal and empirical evidence is simply the entrance of that selfsame evidence into a formal empirical study. Unfortunately, it isn’t so simple. Empirical studies also rely on first person assertions from their subjects (what, I would daresay, you would deem ‘anecdotes’) that are as suspect, or perhaps more so than the anonymous tales of the faceless, unaccountable denizens of the internet.
    So, is the email bullshit? Most certainly. Is your dismissal of the testimony (a more accurate term than ‘anecdotal evidence’ — a term typically reserved for second-person accounts, anyway) of those selfsame people justified? Not even slightly.

    • Except that in order to qualify as assertions in empirical studies these anecdotes would be tempered with something called control. During medical trials, researchers control for other variables that might influence the result.

      I would be willing to bet that the vast majority of people who have posted their anecdotes here have NOT controlled for confounding variables.

      Also, it’s not simply my assertion that anecdotes do not count as evidence, the entire modern skeptical movement, which consists of hundreds of thousands of people across the world, applies the same requirements to claims such as this. And so does the medical community.

      Here is a good link which outlines this requirement: http://skepdic.com/testimon.html

      • Accidentally closed my tab and lost my whole response. In short:
        A) Again, subjects can be duplicitous, intentionally or otherwise, and much about empirical studies relies on first person testimony. This is counteracted by finding statistical correlation with large sample spaces. You’re never going to have perfect control, and this is how you compensate.
        B) Read that link, again. Particularly the last paragraph.

  34. You have all been trolled by Angela. Maybe not on purpose ay first but she kinda have to troll now. I’m sure she’s curious if it does work, heck she might have already tried it. She’s not gonna tell you though cuz she has to stick to her first argument and deny every self doubt no matter how big/small that doubt may be because if she says she’s tried it then she loses credibility. Pretty much the only thing she has left is that “its not proven because science hasn’t come up with data” which is true its not proven by science, but if it works for you like it works for me then who cares. Let it go already.

    • Hey James,
      I haven’t tried this. Mostly because I don’t tend to get these kinds of coughs. Haven’t had one since I wrote this article, in fact.

      I am curious, having seen so many positive anecdotes, about how this works. Yes, I said *how*, not *if*, because I think it may work.

      I stick by my argument about emails like this and how you shouldn’t believe them.

      I think I’ll edit this post shortly to reflect my new position.

  35. I just heard about this “remedy” recently from a colleague and thought it was crazy talk. But I thought “What have I got to lose?” I have just slathered my feet with Vicks and covered them with socks. Hope this works. If it doesn’t at least my feet will be nicely moisturized. My Husband has informed me that he will sleep in the guest room for tonight. He doesn’t want to be coughed on. And the smell is a bit off putting. I do get a reprieve from his snoring for tonight:-) let’s see if this works…. For me.

  36. FYI:
    Vick’s contains camphor, which can be highly toxic to children, according to Consumeraffairs.com.
    I think we should just use a remedy that works, cough, use the shower steam, let your own body learn how to use it’s immune system and if you needs meds get them from the doctor. I use to have family members who would spray window cleaner on everything. Some had died from using window cleaner on hands/feet to get rid of grease. Country folk with no education, I love them but there is a reason for directions. I too tried the vicks on my feet and it worked but I am not willing to push the boundaries further I’d rather be safe lol…..

  37. This post only addresses the logical fallacies of the email, and does not address anything at all as to whether or not it “actually works”. Just because the supporting argument is invalid does not necessarily mean the statement is false. If I say “the sky is blue because unicorns squirt ink into it every day, 8 out of 10 doctors say so” — obviously the reason is false, but the sky is still actually blue.

    Whether or not it actually “works” is irrelevant to whether or not the logic of this particular argument is valid or not.

    As someone who is an advocate for various things which are not commonly accepted/known in our culture, one of my pet peeves is when other advocates fall prey to logical fallacies in order to support the cause. There is plenty of real, scientific evidence for it, it is well-supported and well-documented and follows logical reasoning as well. Using bad logic as a support just makes us look bad, since it will be easily taken apart and attacked by opponents.

    Also, as has been pointed out, the skin is far from impermeable. Many medications are delivered through the skin — steroid creams for joint injuries, relaxants for muscle aches, etc. It is an important defensive system, true, but it is not infallible.

    Should I therefore say that since this one argument is incorrect, then the entire premise of the post is flawed? Of course not, that would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. One incorrect argument does not invalidate the premise — it does not *support* it but it does not *weaken* it either, it is rendered utterly neutral.

    The same is true for this Vicks case. Whether or not it works is a different discussion. There is nothing in the email that proves it — but taking apart the arguments present does not ipso facto disprove it, either. And of course, the barrage of comments saying “it worked for me” does not prove it either. I’m not saying that it DOES work. I’m saying that there is nothing on this page that either proves OR disproves it. What is disproven is the evidence as presented in the email, which leads only to skepticism, not necessarily utter rejection. “In order to prove it works, you will need to provide better evidence than that” is the unavoidable conclusion.

    • Thank you Heather, I think you have made a some inciteful and appropriate comments.

      And yeah, I was trying to address the email itself, not the actual remedy.

      • You have tried to address a lot of people and like I said before who cares if science backs it up or not..data or not when your child is suffering and an email like this one comes out giving you a harmless remedy to try..Why would anyone not try it..If it does great you get to save your child from a little discomfort..If it doesn’t you keep trying until you find something that does..More important I tried it and…drum roll..IT WORKS IT WORKS! I mean it worked for my 7year old with bronchitis only took about 2minutes.. but you’ll have to take my word for it..either way I don’t care how you feel about the email or remedy.. Iam so glad I kept an open mind and could make his night a little easier..Oh yeah..stop lying you know you tried it..It’s human nature as involved as you have made yourself we all know you did..You don’t tend to get colds..But they do creep up n like you said it has to just run its course..but why not make it easier? Cause there’s no data no scientist holding your hand..Who cares..What are you afraid of.. cold feet..or having to eating your words?

  38. Vicks has very toxic ingredients. this must not be used alot and it also says very toxic if ingested,….. well how many times have you read that put garlic on your feet and after 15 minutes your taste it….. it’s still getting in the system. i would be very careful

  39. Okay – so I happened across this site because I wanted to understand more on “why” the method of applying Vick’s Vapor Rub to the bottom of a hacking 5-year olds feet really seemed to work. Seriously – I had been dealing with this for 5 days, the cough getting worse – she’d moved into the stages of hacking and hacking to where she was gasping for air between coughs and no one was sleeping. I almost took her to the ER last night. Someone suggested I try this home remedy to sooth the cough. TRUST ME – I was extremely reluctant and googled about if for another 30-minutes of hacking before I thought “what am I doing wasting all this time search over a little bit of Vick’s – just try it” – and I did. *And it friggin worked!* I can’t put a percentage on it because I only tried it last night but if I did, I guess I’d be posting a 100% success rate, right? Anyway, like I said, I was just looking for more information on “why” it worked (and why I’d never heard of it before now and I turn 40 next week). But I was really annoyed with your interest in tearing apart people’s statements or questions rather than trying to figure out if it does work … and how?! Maybe consider redirecting your energy, Angela, since this page was one of the too hits in Google searches for this topic. Happy Holidays – and with the early Flu season hitting so hard, maybe you’ll get the opportunity to see if it works for yourself or not. :)

  40. I have to pull you up on your comment about the skin being almost impermeable. It certainly isn’t.
    Anyone working in occupational health or industrial hygiene will tell you how big a problem skin absorption or substances is. Just look at the professional journals for peer reviewed evidence. But for simple evidence, look at nicotine or HRT skin patches. They wouldn’t work if the skin didn’t adsorb

  41. ANGELA!! I wanted to congratulate you on sticking to your guns even through the overwhelming barrage of individuals. The scientific method is rigorous for a reason, and bending or diluting it to make people feel better will grant us just foolish, erroneuos information. Excellent work. I think it’s important to note that wanting it to work is different than it actually working, and you said it best when you stated that you would like to see research on this but to this date the data we have is not good. I _would_ like to point out that anecdotes _are_ data, just really poor quality. In medicine this is where we start with case studies, as I’m sure you’re aware, and proceed upwards from there until we have very good quality proof.

    Again, thank you and my hope is that people leave here more enlightened rather than just simply frustrated.

    Finally to those of you who are doing vicks on the feet and it works: the point isn’t that it doesn’t work for you. If it does that’s fine – the point is we don’t know if it actually is the vick’s that doing it or if it’s any of a million things that happened: it could be the foot massage, the fact it happened post-another treatment, we can’t be sure that it was the vick’s, and this is how we create good experiments.

    peace

    • Thank you Torontobound, it is refreshing to have a comment on this post that doesn’t contain another anecdote.

      Of course, anecdotes do count as data, but I take the view that personal anecdotes on the internet are suspicious at best. Anybody can claim anything in a comment thread, whether it is true or not. I don’t think that that is the case with most of the personal testimonies on this thread, but I am suspicious nonetheless.

        • Because I would be as susceptible to confirmation bias and the placebo effect as everyone else who has written a personal anecdote on this site.

          “Trying it yourself” is not the way to establish the efficacy of medicines. There are too many variables that go unnoticed.

          There sure does seem to be an effect here and I am very glad that my post has generated such lively discussion. I would love to see this properly tested.

  42. It´s worked for me and my family about 90% of the time. Doesn´t work with allergies, in our case. My mother in law used to say that a bad case of tonsilitis could be healed by rubbing hot tomatoes on the sole of the feet and then covering up with warm socks. She kept my father in law alive and kicking for 7 years more than the doctors predicted when diagnosed with lung cancer. Anyway, people survived and healed long before “proper” science and medicine came along, and they used herbs, acupuncture, food and homeopathy to do it. The only thing that hasn´t changed through the years is the human body so if it worked back then, it should work now. Honestly, I don´t see why it shouldn´t.

  43. I actually have tried Vicks on my feet and it stops my coughing every time I sleep better than any meds I have ever tried even helps me breath better!

  44. Ya I read maybe half these comments. It’s time for me to go to sleep now. Just wanted to add my two cents to the skeptics-turned believers group. My son is just getting over a nasty cold. He’s been hacking away for 4 days now, keeping me up every night. I put him to bed about 4 hours ago and proceeded to fold laundry and watch tv up until about an hour ago. The entire 3 hours, my son was coughing consistently. A deep dry cough. I checked on him several times and I can assure you be was in a deep sleep…slobber running down his cheek and everything. About an hour ago I finally smeared some Vicks on his feet and covered them with socks. He’s a very deep sleeper and didn’t even flinch when I did this. As of approximately 30 mins ago, his coughing has ceased. Explain to me the placebo effect if he has no idea that anything has been done to him. Just because there’s no scientific explanation right now…doesn’t mean there never will be. I don’t care if its proven or not. My son is only 5 and therefore too young to take any form of cough medicine…and it worked for him….

  45. Wow! My mother-in-law heard about this and my son has been sick with a cough for 3 weeks now and she rubbed Vicks on his feet and he hasn’t coughed in a week since we put it on his feet everyday. I started coughing really bad, to where I couldn’t sleep at night and I used this last night and still no coughing. It is amazing. Thanks for the info.

  46. My 1 yr old had a terrible cough along with a cold that just started. Needless to say we all slept horribly that night. I saw on Pinterest this idea the next day and decided to make my own Vicks with Vaseline and eucalyptus oil. My son usually starts coughing as we are getting ready for bed and within 5 minutes of putting it on and the whole rest of the night, he didn’t cough once! This is the 4th night now and still no cough! (but still a lot of coughing during the day) I’m just really curious of how this works….

  47. I tried it cause my mom heard it worked. I have bronchitis and haven’t been sleeping well from coughing at night. And guess what. I did not use my codine cough meds b4 bed. Just the vapor rub on my feet. And didn’t cough once until i got up.

  48. I have had the flu for 4 days now and I have coughed so much that I vomit from it. I just remembered reading an article lady year about the Vicks on feet for cough so I put some on my feet and within the time it took me to put my socks on and cover back up in bed the cough was gone. It really does work!!!

  49. Yeah sorry but it really does work. i won’t bore anyone with details but I didn’t believe it till I saw it. And when I did it was like a miracle. Hey, like they say, “Don’t knock it till you try it.”

  50. Pingback: STUFF I LIKE: Vicks VapoRub (Including on the Feet) | mamapunditmamapundit·

  51. Tried this about 20 minutes ago and I’m still coughing like a banshee. Had a cough for about five days. This is BS and doesn’t work. I don’t believe in God either. It’s tough to swim upstream.

    • Well arent you just a big ball of positivity and optimism…every herd of the “Law of attraction…? Research that n get back 2 us…Jus sayin… LOl… Juju Head!! Chances r you didnt do it right or your just part of that 1% that nothing works for See above suggestion to remedy that :)

        • Wait… you don’t respond to people’s comments on your article for months, and THIS is the once you choose to respond to? Picking our battles, are we? ;)

          I think there’s an overwhelming number of… ‘anecdotes’ here that definitely do show that this method is not… inefficient. There may be no scientific evidence, but the constant flow of people providing success stories can not be dismissed. You can keep ignoring this, Angela.. but now I’m led to wonder… if you ever get a cough.. I’m, talking racking, can’t sleep at night, lungs & throat burning from all the cough…. would you have enough of an open mind to give this a try?

          • I don’t respond to the personal testimonies because I have nothing to say. You tried it and you think it worked for you but we have no idea of the other conditions . Were you taking any other medicines? These can easily skew the result.

            No, I won’t try it. I will get antibiotics and treat it with medicines that have been proven to be effective.

            • I am A Doctors wife My husband is all about the pills and antibiotics and syrups to relieve any and all cold symptoms and I am a nurses aide Myself. My husband and I both with in days got sick the whole nine yards we had everything he stuck to his traditional stuff I did the vicks and used throat drops to relieve the soreness the vicks did the rest needless to say I got better before he did I missed only 1 day of work and he missed 3. So believe it or not But at such a cheap price for Vicks why not try it?

              • Great story, but like all the others it is worthless.

                We don’t know if you and your husband were sick with the same virus, we have no idea whether or not you are fundamentally healthier than him and just happen to recover more quickly.

                I’m glad you are better, but as a healthcare professional you should realize why I can’t accept your anecdote as evidence of efficacy.

  52. Thanks for writing a critical review of this notion Angela, I’ve heard multiple people parrot the idea, and every time I do, a little piece of me dies. (Well, maybe, perhaps ‘dies’ is an overstatement… Becomes a bit ill?)

    I’ve also heard of something similar, where a person is suppose to put a bar of soap, wrapped in tin foil, under their sheets, at the foot of their bed and it’s suppose to cure any number of ills.

    As usual, there is no reasoning with the supporters of such claims.

    • It really does work, but when I heard Vicks contains turpentine..I switched back to the good ol faithful WATKINS MENTHOLATUM rub my Mom always rubbed on Us as kids…….now I am rubbing in on my kids, and myself:) Thanks Mom!

  53. I love how the skeptic goes through a whole paragraph explaining what a logical fallacy is and that anecdotal “evidence” is a logical fallacy. And then everyone comments with their anecdotes…*face palm*. No one is saying that everyone is delusional or that it’s impossible that it does have some special effect by putting it on your feet. But it can’t be proven without scientific trials where all the variables are controlled. Your anecdotal evidence may be proof enough for you, but it doesn’t provide the kind of proof needed to say without a doubt that this is a fact. No one is calling you a liar they’re just pointing out that you don’t understand logic or what it means to truly prove something.

    • “No one is calling you a liar they’re just pointing out that you don’t understand “you don’t understand logic or what it means to truly prove something.”

      But.. but.. but… :) It feels like it’s you and Angela (who went through the trouble of writing this article about this letter she read / received) that are trying to prove something. No one here is saying it has been scientifically proven to work. No one here (you & Angela aside) really cares if scientists have lathered it all over lab rats before coming to carefully crafted conclusions, they’re just sharing their observations : kids cough, they put it on kids feet, kids stop coughing. Some gave their kids cough syrup, some didn’t. Either way, kids stopped coughing. No one’s demanding scientific journals publish this.

      I also briefly wanted to comment on
      ***
      Your skin is an amazing barrier and is virtually impermeable. If this were true putting cheese in your socks would allow you to taste cheese. Doesn’t quite seem right does it?
      **
      I’ll agree that skin is impermeable, as in, pouring water on my skin won’t result in additional water content in my body, but at the same time it does absorb as well – moisturizer, sunscreen, etc. So why not the soles of your feet? :)

  54. It does work and it is instant relief. I’ve been up all night tonight with an uncomfortable flu, coughing, aches, pains, fever. I applied vicks to my chest and neck a few hours ago and kept reapplying but it virtually did nothing. I somehow remembered the idea to apply vicks to the bottoms of my feet. After generously applying to soles and between toes, as soon as the second sock went back on, my cough stopped, and I felt a wave of calm and warm and comfort wash over me. The time it took to read your entire article and type this response, I haven’t coughed once. I still feel ill with the flu, sure, but it really does relieve symptoms to make it a lot more bearable.

  55. I have 3 children and have put vicks on 2 of the 3 feet, and sorry to say but it does work. Ihad a nurse from the peds office tell me to try it it does work and will not harm u at all. It hasn’t affected my children anyway.

  56. I have been coughing for 3 days and the last 2 nights I could not sleep at all due to the coughing. My daughter told me about this and said she tried it and it worked, so I thought what the hell! I rubbed about a 3 finger scoop of Vicks on each foot and put on a pair of socks (and I CAN NOT sleep with socks on)…well within 5 minutes, 10 tops, the tickle in the throat and the urge to cough was gone, I slept like a baby the last 2 nights!!..I would never have believed it! I will never buy the expensive and useless cough medicine again, it has never worked in all my life!! Go buy some Vicks and save yourself some money and get some good sleep!

    • i posted to an earlier comment about people on here and the skeptic….one thing i noticed was the skeptic used as some sort of proof…that if vicks thought it worked, ” they would have put it on their label”………no…they wouldn’t, the lawsuits that would surely come from slips and falls would be enough to keep them from ever telling anyone to put oily substances on your feet. name one company that will tell you to apply it’s ” grease based” product to your feet. lotion yes but not grease.

  57. Can’t believe this has been going on since 2008, wow. I hate claims like this about the Vick’s vapor rub on the feet and other crazy sounding ideas like this. I am an engineer who designs and develops product and does R&D. I have to test everything and find out why everything works, I am a total skeptic. My wife on the other hand, she loves to try out things like this and is typically quite gullible with matters like this. My son who is 3 now was continually sickn when he was 1 and 2. He would get terrible coughs that would keep him up all night. We tried different medicines (over the counter and prescription), some worked a little, but there was no surefire solution. She found out about the Vick’s thing online and got excited. I of course thought it was a load of crap. But, despite my skepticism, my wife did it to my son and it actually worked. I thought it was a coincidence, but we’ve done it over and over and it actually works. Baffles me. My son, who was 2 had NO IDEA what was happening so I discount any kind of mental placebo effect with him. I reluctantly have to say it works.

    • If you discount the “mental placebo” because your child was only 2, then you don’t understand how the placebo effect works.

      • right, because before he tried the vicks, i’m sure he was rubbing other things on his kids feets that did work… o_O

      • Angela, help me understand. In young children’s case, wouldn’t taking cough syrup, despite them not knowing what it is, also potentially act as a placebo and relieve the cough? In most cases described here, all anecdotal, i concede, cough syrups are given first, allowing the placebo effect to work, yet it seems it did not. What are your thoughts on that?

  58. Spouse and I returned from 8 days in Hawaii. She returned with a persistent, dry cough for four days straight, gradually worsening and persistent. Visited the MD finally because she could not sleep and the cough was wearing her out. Doc prescribed inhaler, albuterol and fexofenadine. She had no other allergy symptoms – no running nose, eyes were clear and bright. But after all, it is hay fever season in Washington State. Took meds. Placebo effect should have kicked in, right? Cough continued for another 18 hrs. with meds. Went to the wacky web for advice and found the chatter about Vicks. Five bucks, can’t hurt to try, right? Within 15 minutes in laying position, generous amount of Vicks on both feet, and a pair of socks, cough diminished significantly, enough to allow sleep after 28 hrs. Vicks has 4.8% camphor with lessor amounts of menthol and eucalyptus. After 30 minutes, tries Mentholatum brand with 9% camphor. Cough virtually disappeared. Will continue to apply ever hour or so. We are not New Agers. We are a family of scientists and engineers. We are skeptics, in general, about health food fads, supplements, etc. Camphor seemed to work for our situation. You have very little to lose. I noted, too, that my wife’s cough was similar to a dry cough I had about 30 yrs ago, living in an old dormitory with steam heat. Cough occurred at the end of an exhale.

    • Thank you for your anecdote, as a skeptic you will know that the plural of anecdote is not data. You will also know that there are too many confounding factors in your story for it to count as proof of the effect of Vicks, your wife had recently started taking medicine to treat the cough which means you could be susceptible to confirmation bias in the timing of the Vicks and the relief of the cough, and you could be ascribing it to the vicks when the medicine may have played a more important role.

      A memory of a cough from 30 years ago really can’t be used in any kind of argument. Our memories are fallible and you have no real data about the cough.

      While Vicks might help in these situations, I’ll stick to verifiable tests instead of anecdotes.

      • I don’t know why u can not believe it. R u sick or something? I see u as a hopless person…amazing

  59. Just wanted to add. that there are also topical hormones, such as progesterone cream, nicotine patches, hormone patches, all prescribes by gp’s to absorb into the blood stream through skin. These are chemicals/hormones that would likely abcorb into other material, unlike cheese. Hence putting cheese on yiur feet is unlikely to result in tasting cheese!

    • I agree, there are many things we are told to be careful about as they can be absorbed through the skin – chemical cleaning products etc, so why can’t Vicks Vaporub be absorbed through feet. I was reminded about this “remedy” today as I’m lying in bed with a virus and coughing madly……tried it and at the moment the deep barking cough has subsided, and although there’s still an occasional tickle, I feel a whole lot better. I don’t care about scientific evidence – if something works, IT WORKS, end of argument! There is such a lot still to be discovered by our tiny human minds and even more that we will never understand about our amazing bodies…..which were created by a much bigger mind.
      PS for children under 2 do not use regular Vicks, use the baby formulation

  60. I have read many of your posts and I don’t know why it works, but my Dad used Vicks on us as kids and it worked like a charm. Still does. And, as for what we put on our skin not being absorbed that is just not true. I think with a little more research one might find that many topical products that we use everyday are absorbed into our systems. I’ve tried many other products which contain many impure ingredients for the virus which is the common cold and Vicks just works. That’s just my two cents.

    • My husband has coughed for years at night after weeks of radiation to his throat. He used Vicks Vapor Rub on the bottom of his warm clean feet last night, applied socks and slept all night without coughing . It worked 100% and hope it continues to work.

      • No argument from me. It worked for me too. I don’t need to know why or how. It was the only thing that gave me relief for a long cough! The kind that made me feel like I was choking to death! The cough medicines I had taken..(many) including a prescription from my Doctor, didn’t work. So, feeling silly but desperate, I used the Vicks on the feet that I had heard about years before. VOILA! Slept all night.
        Pat

  61. Ok as a person suffering from Asthma I some how seem to get my fair share of colds and chest infections and its only been the last couple of bad colds that I have tried the Vicks on my feet as coughing and stuffy head lead to attacks and needing my rescue inhaler more than I should(6 times yesterday on top of my long acting and steroid preventer inhalers) now for me it works and I don’t use it just at night I reapply after my morning shower and it seems to solve the stuffy nose which is what causes the cough. As my GP (Dr. Singh) told me most coughs are a respiratory result of post nasal drip hence when you have a sinus infection or really bad hay fever you can have a cough as well as sneezing so one could conclude that the use of Vicks on your feet or chest for that matter results in clearer sinuses thus resulting in less post nasal drip and relief from coughing. The aspect of putting it on your feet could be down to reflexology which I know you have previously said is bunk but think for a moment before modern medicine existed how were people treating themselves to cure simple or even more complex illnesses? It might be a good idea to do some research into why treatments like reflexology, massage, acupuncture, herbal remedies have lasted as effective methods for some long into the existence of “modern medicine”

    Now me being an inquisitive person by nature I thought surely Vicks can’t be the only thing that helps since I use olbas oil when I get colds as well. and all olbas oil contains is Cajuput oil18.5%, Clove oil 0.1%, Eucalyptus Oil 35.45%, Juniper berry oil 2.7%, Levomentol 4.1% Methyl Salicylate 3.7% Partly Demotholised Mint Oil 35.45% and we know that Vicks contains active ingredients Levomenthol 2.75% Camphor 5%, Eucalyptus oil 1.5%, turpentine oil5% and thymol, cedarwood oil, white soft paraffin(Olbas bottle label and Vicks jar label) so Tuesday night; when I started developing the stuffy nose and cough, I used the Vick’s on my feet and went to bed slept soundly but then didn’t reapply during the day as I was going to use the Olbas last night and proceeded to have a rough day with cough, stuffy nose and being chained to my reliever inhaler. Then last night I used Olbas on my feet put my socks on and proceeded to sleep better than I did with the Vick’s the night before. I am not going to reapply the olbas today and see if I am still chained to my inhaler today like yesterday and will report my findings but my personal outcome so far is satisfactory as I feel a lot better today than I did on Tuesday as both Olbas and Vick’s seem to work well for me.

    I know to you that that is anecdotal at best but after all what is a drug trial(of which I’ve been on many for my asthma) but a test of symptom relief using either the actual product or something that looks like it and reporting the findings of that relief. Since colds are primarily viruses that our immune systems have to fight on their own because antibiotics do nothing for viruses and we get to experience the not so fun symptoms while this process happens, is it best to just leave well enough alone and if a product relieves the symptoms whether it be applied on chest or feet we pass on our knowledge of how it works for us to those who are suffering from a virus like the cold?

    It’s OK to be sceptical but don’t be close minded to things other than modern medicine as its only a relatively recent thing in the grand scheme of humanity’s time on earth.

  62. so, say your fav. food is french fries. wellll, there is no scientific evidence stating french fries actually taste good. i mean, we need to do a placebo with “french-fry” like foods, and then, and ONLY then, may you be able to claim a french fry as your favorite food. =) lol. trolololololol!!!! it works, get over it. and its not a placebo.

    • LOL!
      That’s not how it works!
      If I said that French fries were the favourite food of 80% of the world’s population, I would have to provide evidence.
      If I said that eating French fries would cure your asthma, we’d have to test it and get proof.
      If I say I like French fries, no test or proof is necessary. The difference is that my favourite food is a subjective experience and science makes no claims as to subjective experiences.
      Claims for medical efficacy, on the other hand, are objective empirical claims that can, and SHOULD be tested.
      It might work, I see no evidence except anecdotal, placebo is the most likely answer until further evidence presents itself.

      • Ahhhhh…. the rhetoric going on here is great. I just saw how LONG this Vicks thing has been going on with your website, Angela. That’s is GOOD.
        SCIENCE! We’re damned with it……we’re damned without it !
        SCIENTISTS made the atomic bomb…….and all of the following atomic weapons.
        BUT… SCIENTISTS also learned that pasturizing milk prevented TB.

        And we could go on and on with the pros and cons. There are no winners. Maybe we weren’t meant to “mess with Mother Nature”! (Or whatever/whoever your beliefs of creation are about) That doesn’t matter. Either way… our world is out of balance today… and man has created that! Scientists have learned how to save and prolong life. That is a good thing… but then again, is it? The world is very over populated now. I doubt that one of us here would refuse treatment if we know someone could save our life..and just say, “no, let me die because the world is overly populated”. So because of that SCIENTIST who invented antibiotics, I’ll probably take those antibiotics to get rid of that bacterial pneumonia !
        But of course, by creating more and more “weapons of destruction” , men are figuring out how to DESTROY more and more people. So…as I said ….
        Damned if we do………..Damned if we don’t.
        (Anyone here believe in the 2012 Doomsday predictions?) I don’t want to… but??????

      • Hi Pat,

        I wrote a blog post about the 2012 Doomsday prdictions (http://skepticdetective.wordpress.com/2012/01/05/news24-2012-doomsday-rubbish/) at the beginning of the year. There are one or two seary words, but it’s not too bad. I hope it helps.
        I also received an email last night from someone who explains the calendar differences very nicely. I will publish it, if I get his permission to do so.

        As with all human knowledge, the advances of science bring us both good and bad. It’s not that science, or scientists themselves, are sinister. I think that the problem comes in when other people twist the advances of science for nefarious means.

      • Get over it . It works. I am 46 years old I don’t believe in taking medications. I have been sick 2 times in the last 10 years. Both times with a cold and a bad cough. I did the vicks on feet. It stops the cough. My mother in law did it on her kids. She said it worked every time So I guess that would be 100% of the time for her .Somethings no one can eplain

  63. Wow so many people freaking out and arguing over vicks ? really? Either it works for you or it doesn’t . If it works for you use it if it doesn’t then don’t. By the way I think your website is a complete wast of time and that you just look for things to start confrontations about. Grow up get a life and stop trying to be a know it all .

    • And I think that you are an ignorant bully.
      So what? We can throw insults at each other all night, but I only see one of us actually taking the time to make a little bit of a difference in the world and actually having an impact on the mountains of pseudo-science and misinformation permeating our every day lives.
      Which one of us was being confrontational again?

      • umm did you say you’re making a difference?! ..LOL.. Its ok to be a skeptic, but no one here in these comments are saying it works 80% or 100% of the time. They’re saying it worked for them. I think what you’re angry at is the poorly written email that did say it…even tho TBH I think they were talking about 100% of the time, for the personally…there may be no scientific proof it works, because there has been no studies. Tell you what, would you do your own personal study? – next time you, or your kids, or young nephew, nieces, whatever, have a cough, rub that Vicks on their feet. In the name of science. Anyway,after 2 weeks of my 2 yr old’s persistent coughing, and no one’s getting any sleep – I reluctantly, feeling silly, put a lil vicks on his feet. GONE. almost instantly. i’m freakin out!. I googled “why does Vicks on the feet work?” and here I am. Can’t find the answer. No one knows why, but I do know it worked FOR ME!!

  64. i just had to add my 2cents…only Vicks vapo rub works..and trust me it works like magic. I found this blog because i was curious why…and …guess what …no one knows…All these silly people who keep refuting the evidence … are…(i will refrain)… I think it might be the eucalyptus that is in Vicks but i never tried eucalyptus oil straight… i can attest to many people besides myself who have had instant relief.. tried many other rubs, creams, menthols, etc etc etc… it is VICKS … As to why scientists don’t publish papers on it…I guess for the same reason those same scientists say that vaccines are healthy and work. :( :( Whatever the scientists say…look for the opposite to be the reality..hhhhh

    • Well, you are obviously anti-science. And as such, will be unable to provide any meaningful citations to support your claims that vicks works “like magic”.

      And your assertion that vaccines are unhealthy and don’t work is just plain ridiculous. This argument has been going on for years and the scientific community still backs vaccination as one of the best ways to prevent horrific diseases like polio, chickenpox, and rubella.

      • I so agree about how important vaccinations are! In the U.S. we have a HUGE influx of illegal immigrants. In these years that this has been happening, there has been an increase of ALL of the common inoculation diseases. Including Whooping Cough (Pertussus) sp?. Polio, chickenpox, measles, whooping cough, mumps.. and many other of the diseases that SCIENTISTS have worked hard to discover protection from, and destruction of. They are killers! MOST OF THESE ARE DISEASES THAT WERE PRACTICALLY NON-EXISTANT here, since our children started recieving these shots/vaccinations! Very few of these new imigrants have been innoculated for anything! They are now contaminating our health…both children’s and adult’s!
        And by the way, Vicks worked for me too..(don'[t know or care why, but it did). but I am all for science continuing to ask questions..get answers..and find cures for anything that needs curing!! Our air, our water, our people! SCIENCE IS GOOD!!!

      • Actually Angela, i wasn’t trying or wanting to supply any citations to support my claims. For me, if 9,000 people try Vicks on their feet and 9,000 people stop coughing…that’s all i need. Some things work in ways that science either doesn’t understand or hasn’t yet discovered. Yes I am anti-science in the sense that science is simply a guess like anything else…the statistics are very often skewed, there is often an agenda. “Science” changes it mind often…if “western science” said “this is our best guess” I would give it more points, but “science” usually says…This is it, the reason, the explanation, period. …remember once “science” said the earth was flat…

        Eastern medicines and explanations have far more credibility than western science. And been around a lot longer too. As to the vaccines…surely you are kidding. Modern vaccines kill and make ill way more people than they help…The only one i will give any accolades to was the polio vaccine. This argument HAS been on for years, and good alternative medicine can and does give the evidence against vaccines…which any scientist without an agenda can see as plainly as the nose on his/her face.

      • Naava, you are deeply ignorant of the way that science works and have clearly had the wool pulled over your eyes.
        Every single point you made shows a complete misunderstanding of how science works and, while I would love to spend the time with you addressing each of your concerns in turn and looking at the ways you have been mislead, and hopefully addressing some of those misconceptions, I just don’t know if it will be worth my while.

      • Angela, You said:
        “Naava, you are deeply ignorant of the way that science works and have clearly had the wool pulled over your eyes.
        Every single point you made shows a complete misunderstanding of how science works and, while I would love to spend the time with you addressing each of your concerns in turn and looking at the ways you have been mislead, and hopefully addressing some of those misconceptions, I just don’t know if it will be worth my while.”

        Darling, I have no intention of getting into a personally insulting dialog with you. I was discussing the issues, not you personally. Actually I just stumbled across this website after googling the Vicks on the feet / coughing issue. I didn’t know you were interested in science until I looked at your entire website. Even though I totally disagree with you I am not into bashing, and would not have made the comments about science as it is a subject you love.

        That said, however, you have made a lot of incorrect assumptions about who I am and where I am coming from. You know nothing about my background, my experience, my own research, or why I have reached the conclusions I have. You are young and enthusiastic and I applaud that, but I hope that in time you will be able to respect legitimate views that other people hold that differ from your own, and also respect the fact that research can yield varying results depending upon the input and the expectations of people doing the research.

        I wish you the best in life.

    • Naava, you have confused me.

      I absolutely do respect the fact that people can hold legitimate views that differ from my own, but you did not raise any such legitimate views.

      • Naava,

        I would just like to point out a few discrepencies between your argument and actual logic. First of all, you began your comment stream coming off a touch snooty and insulting, yet have the nerve to say you haven’t tried to get into a personal and insulting dialogue with Angela. Are you familiar with the English language?

        Secondly, close to nothing you stated can be proven AT ALL, such as your statement that vaccines kill and ail more people than they help. Why would anyone who has this GEM of knowledge, or who has done even a small amount of research on the subject, allow anyone to be vaccinated? Trust me, we’d all be saving our money if we knew it was harmful. Can you site any data proving your claims? Or are you just an anti-science fanatic who (very similar to most religious “intellects”) would like to throw out weak and improvable “facts” to supposedly strengthen your argument?

        Being anti-science should not have anything to do with the fact that Angela is simply stating her skeptisism about a RUMOR she had not herself proven or not. With things such as this, where there is really no scientific data leaning one way or another, it is a matter of opinion and humanly right to decide if you believe a claim or not. YOU being anti-science and HER being pro-science should not matter. You can’t prove it unless (according to many of the comments here) you try it yourself. She hasn’t. So lay off.

        And one that really gets me going:

        DID YOU JUST SAY SCIENCE CALLED THE EARTH FLAT?!?!

        You should really get to know something before you decide you dislike it. RELIGION stated the earth was flat, just as RELIGION was only created to try and explain things we did not understand. Anytime anyone couldn’t explain something we would create a god/goddess/demon to alleviate the confusion. No one was familiar with the Earth as we know it now, so people of those times guessed. These same people called our atmosphere (containing the stars, clouds, and planets) a bowl. Please tell me you don’t honestly believe men of knowledge would make such a claim.

        Lastly… science is not guesswork and people throwing out random “facts.” If it can’t be proven, it’s labeled as a theory. Theories aren’t glamorized as facts and distributed to the public. Science tells us what we as a human race has PROVEN to be true through ample amounts of data and experimentation, and what we haven’t proven but ponder about (still clearly described as non-fact!).

        I would thank you to educate yourself before expressing your opinion as fact. Ignorance is not as charming as one would hope.

  65. After almost a week of a never ending cough, I had a friend tell me about this. Now, I’ve tried this with Vicks Vapor Rub, and three different store brand “Vapor Rubs”. The three store brands….Nada, zip, zilch, nothing. I still coughed all night as if I hadn’t done anything, only now I had menthol scented socks. Now, Vicks on the other hand. It has worked every single time with me. Within minutes, I’m breathing easier, my sinuses open up and the feeling that I need to cough is gone. I wondered if it was just that I wanted it to work because I grew up using Vicks and I trusted it…so I did do a blind test. I took four little cups, all the same, and put a big spoon full of each rub into their own container, as close as possible to the same amount of each one. Didn’t mark them or anything. I had a friend make their own little code to mark each container, this way someone knew which one was which…but that someone wasn’t me. I left the room so that I didn’t see my friend mark them…or what order they put the little containers in after they were marked. For the next four nights (since I did have a cold) I used a different rub on my feet. In the morning I would write down if I coughed or not, how did my sinuses feel and did the tickle in my throat go away. Three of the nights/mornings were all the same….Coughed all night, sinuses felt clogged and the tickle stayed, or symptoms were only slightly lessened…not totally gone. One night I slept wonderfully. No cough, sinuses open, tickle gone, all symptoms GONE! Once all four days were done, I took my little pad to my friend to find out which rub was which. The night that I slept well and my cough was gone…. It was the Vicks rub. Now, I’m not a scientist or even someone who does medical research, so I have no idea about the whys or hows of it working VS. the store brands not working, or why it even works. All I know is that for some reason it does work. I’d rather spend my money on something that worked than waste it on something that didn’t.

  66. Plenty of studies show that cough medicines do not work on anyone, child or otherwise, but in many cases, once the patient falls asleep the cough appears to go (this is because a cough is a largely conscious act, not an unconscious one, like a sneeze). OTOH placebos can be very powerful. Putting Vick in your socks is an excellent example of the placebo effect in action. (Placebo effect also works on cough medicine, which is why we all think they do work, even though they don’t).

      • I felt the same way about cough medication, they just knock you out so hard you don’t even wake to cough, but my son he had gotten sick and was coughing all night while sleeping I tried the vicks baby rub and the cough just went away and hes only four, and had no idea why I was rubbing the salve on his feet. so explain that with the placebo effect. I have no idea why it works but it does.

      • Dori, your anecdote fits exactly within the bounds of the placebo effect. I’m glad your son is feeling better.

  67. Vicks VapoRub contains chemicals that could cause allergic reactions, which in turn could further compromise breathing issues. People with Asthma and compromised immune systems do not cope well when inhaled chemical products are applied to their skin. I would avoid this product altogether with small children – do what you will to yourself, but be their advocate by treating a cough with moisture, unless lungs become infected, at which time antibiotics should be introduced. Most people are affected by the lack of moisture in their homes in winter time because of the increased use of heaters and fireplaces, which sucks all the moisture out of the home. A child’s room should be humidified during the winter time, making sure to turn off the humidifier before the child goes to bed. Pay attention throughout the day to the state of humidity around your child and this will help sinuses, throats, and lungs to function more normally. When these sensitive tissues are inflamed due to dryness, your child is more vulnerable to bacterial and viral infections. Always consult your pediatrician if a cough lasts longer than two days or is accompanied by fever. (Qualifier: When humidifying a child’s room, be aware of possible mold growth, due to increased dampness – which is also an allergen and threatens people with compromised lung function)..

  68. Can you tell me what the difference was between your response and the original email? You made assumptions, rebutted arguments with opinion and cited no sources whatsoever. So exactly how is your reply any better than the original email in terms of quality? If you can’t devote the necessary time to rebut these things with research, as you’ve indicated a number of times above, don’t do it at all.

    • I did plenty of research, but there was nothing to link to.

      The difference is that I am not asking you to believe something without evidence. I am asking you NOT TO believe something without evidence.

      • And the anedoctes on this page isn’t evidence enough??? If you haven’t tried it, then do not say it doesn’t work because you DO NOT BELIEVE it doesn’t… Being skeptical doesn’t really mean closed minded. Why not try, and then come up with your ‘scientific findings’??? READ WHAT WAS SAID ABOVE and then be skeptical about YOUR OPINION… Because, to anyone who questions, your skeptical answer was just the same as the email…

        I am glad, however, that I have found, on this page, that IT DOES WORK. All I had to do was TRY IT FOR MYSELF, since I have to have facts to believe on anything.

        Thank you, Angela, for being a closed minded (in your dictionary, skeptical). Your missconseption rocks!!! Helped us see that it works ;-)

      • People are trting it and getting the benifit, what the hell more evidence u r looking for? I suggest u to try it urself and that will be ur “RND” and u will see it urself.. Amazing lady really!!!

  69. Pingback: Freaky Friday Home Remedies That’ll Make You Say Wha… | iliketotalkalot·

      • I’m not replying to this subject about you being whiny……… but it’s the only place I can find to “reply to your reply to me about Vicks on feet” However, I’m not replying to that subject either. As I decided to surf your website to see if I could find some credentials re: your oppinions, research, etc. I clicked on your Religion button on your home page. Boy! Am I on the wrong website. I am not offended that you are an Athiest………. even though I am not. That is your business and your right. I also don’t live in South Africa. I’m in the U.S. Is your fowl language more acceptable in Africa? I am very offended by your casual use IN PRINT of the F…. word. It is the most disrespecting, insulting vulgar word in the English language. I realize that is how you meant it to be. I’m embarrassed to be on this website. Sorry I wasted my time participating. Your little boy looks to be adorable. He deserves better than to have a publicly vulgar Momma. Being an Athiest does not give you the right to use fowl language publicly. You don’t deserve this URL space.
        Sincerly,
        Pat… The 74 yr. old grandmother who just got rid of a cough with Vicks! Signing off.

      • Luckily, the internet police don’t care about whether or not I use a few, or a copious amount of, swear words. And I used that language to make a point. Sensorship is a tool of a byegone era, thank goodness.

      • In reply to your latest “reply” to my comment on bad language you used on your home page.

        in response to Angela:

        (Angela’s reply to Pat:)
        Luckily, the internet police don’t care about whether or not I use a few, or a copious amount of, swear words. And I used that language to make a point. Sensorship is a tool of a byegone era, thank goodness.

        and Pat’s reply to Angela:

        I agree on the censorship. But there is also such a thing as “Good Judgement”… respect, pride, which I don’t feel you used with your vulgar language post on your home page. Sometimes, poor judgement leads to sensorship. Don’t take advantage of the priviledge of having this blog/URL/domain. It be-littles any legitimate knowledge you may have of the subjects you are discussing. I was told as I was growing up, that using fowl language shows a lack of intelligence. Lack of command of the English, or whatever language you use…. be it Spanish, French, etc. If you must say” F…you”, to someone to get a point across, your command of that language must be quite limited. I really thought you might be a well educated woman. sorry. The freedom of speach, press, etc. has come to free countries and peoples at a high price over the years. It was earned. Don’t abuse it or take it for granted..Please!

      • I don’t disagree with you Pat, and I do try to avoid using foul language as much as possible. But in that situation (and I think you will find it extremely rare on this blog) I felt it was the right thing to do. The person I was talking to was defending the ritual torture of children for crying out loud, someone like that is beyond respect. It was a considered response, and the topic makes me extremely angry. In a few months the post will no longer be on the home page and you won’t have to worry.
        I think my next article will be about the placebo effect, I’m going to do some serious research for that one. I hope that you read it when it is done.

      • Hi Angela,
        Still having problems with the “reply process” on here..this is the only place I see today. Just want to tell you that I wish you luck on the research for Placebo effect. Very intersting! Especially in the cases of those not capable of having the psychological awareness to process the treatments..Placebo or real. I will check back to see what you found.
        Oh my… wasn’t aware of the previous post you were replying to with the bad language. HORRIBLE! WORST ATTROCITY IN THE WORLD! But still, try not to lower yourself to using the F words or other really vulgar language. You are too intelligent for that and your web site can serve good purpose !
        Pat

      • Not a problem Pat, I will move all these posts into the correct place as soon as I get a chance. I hope that you understand why I chose to use that language, it was a measured response not an outburst.

        Thank you for your compliments.

      • **Evolve a brain’s comment has been removed by the Skeptic Detective. I try to keep an open commenting policy, but, unfortunately, I have to wield the big stick every now and again. If you don’t want this to happen to your comment, don’t be a giant douche.**

        • umm there is a giant douche you haven’t removed yet…I won’t say names but it starts with an A…

  70. Normally, I would roll my eyes at a treatment suggestion like this. I don’t know why. I just would. But I tried it out of desperation on my little boy because he is too young for cough meds. And it totally worked. So I tried it on myself and it was instant relief for the entire night. I kept waking up thinking that surely it would wear off soon and I’d cough the rest of the night, but it didn’t. It just works. Don’t know why!

    • I would be very interested to see a blinded trial on this question. After all the positive feedback I’ve had from readers I think it would be worthwhile to test this product and see if it has an effect.
      I’m glad you are feeling better.

      • I am 74 years old. I have had a cold and really bad cough for almost a week. I have coughed so much my stomach muscles hurt. I got some relief from cough/cold meds, but find that prolonged used raises my blood pressure. Last night was a really bad night of almost continual coughing.. which continued long after I got up this AM… I have been using Vicks on my chest and neck all week. Maybe helped a wee bit. Had to get to the store today, but knew I’d be in trouble if I started coughing while there. Someone asked me if I had ever tried the “Vicks on the bottoms of my feet” thing. Totally forgotten! Tried it. Left for the store, still coughing. By the time I arrived, I HAD STOPPED COUGHING! That was 4 hours ago, and for the first time in a week, it’s the longest I’ve gone without coughing. How in the world does this work? Don’t care what the scientists say, it worked for me! So far, anyway! Have the sceptics ever tried it? It doesn’t really matter to me, because I got real relef and I’m thankful for that!

      • How could a blind study be conducted using Vicks Vaporub? The very ingredients that it is composed of, Camphor, Menthol, Eucalyptus…are such unique odors that I’m not sure how they could be reproduced.
        In answer to your reply this AM, inferring that I don’t understand the “placebo effect”… This really wasn’t my point. My point was that IT WORKED for me. Perhaps this was a psychological phenomina for me, but if it worked, so be it.
        I had my first full night of sleep last night in a week.
        Perhaps I misunderstand you in this insistance of you insisting on Vicks on feet being a placebo effect. And perhaps your insistance is construed by some to mean that you think people are using a useless method to ease the very uncomfortable (to put it mildly) symptoms of a severe cough from cold or flu. I think it is a case of not knowing any more about why it works, than knowing why the placebo effect works. And as you know, the placebo effect doesn’t work for many physical illnesses, such as curing cancer.! In my research, I have never seen a placebo kill a cancer cell, and those blind studies are done all the time. That is a true blind study.
        Studies done on placebo effects psychologically are actually oppinions . No one has figured out exactly why some work.
        I’m not giving you an argument here… just saying………………
        PS… your reply came to me under a post about reflexology. I have no idea what that’s about. I hope I hadn’t posted under that subject.

    • er not to poke at this and make re hash it.. but.. are we sure that saliva was not a type and Salvia was instead meant? XD that might have a nice effect. As for this argument… I just put some equate brand mentholated rub stuff on my wifes foot.. and she has NO idea that i have been reading this.. i just told her that all of my mexican friends told me their parents told them to do this and one of my friends said his mom told him to use it for everything so i figured what the hell why not try it.. its been roughly 25 min since the application, her wheezing has decreased, she has stopped coughing as often as she was prior, though its not 100% gone the cough is, slowed to almost a crawl with a light sort of half cough once since the application, whereas before she was coughing every 3-5 minutes pretty harshly and rough sounding. Now im not saying this is a cure to anything.. simply put people get needles put in their face to control ADHD and MANY other neuro problems i know this, because i have had success with accupuncture and accupressure in regards to my ADHD, does that mean it will work for everyone.. Duhh.. no.. some people smoke marijuana and get paranoid.. some get motivated.. some get focused… everyone is different so there really isnt anything to be skeptic of… try it, or dont.. its your choice.. you can try something you have never tried before, that may very well work for you. but who the hell knows.. if you dont try it.. you wont know if your one of the luckies that it does work for.. I personally have never done this.. i personally HATE the smell of that crap with a passion and i sleep in a different room when she has it on.. HOWEVER i will try it on myself the next time i remember… its hard.. as i generally am not sick often/for very long and again.. i HATE the smell of the crap….. also read what a SCIENTIST wrote.. have a nice life living inside your box.. *facepalm*

      The principle of ‘counter-irritation’

      The remedy wouldn’t have seemed so strange to doctors a hundred years ago, who often prescribed liniments and poultices containing mild irritants such as mustard, garlic, or camphor to the chest and to the soles of the feet to relieve symptoms of colds and whooping cough. Like Vicks VapoRub, the active ingredients of which include camphor, eucalyptus, and menthol, these preparations would have had the effect of stimulating blood flow to the skin. Cataloged under the heading of “counter-irritants” in early twentieth-century medical texts, such treatments were based on the principle that “internal morbid processes may at times be relieved by creating external irritations” (Horatio Charles Wood in Therapeutics: Its Principles and Practice, 1908).

      To be sure, there was vigorous debate over how counter-irritants actually worked. “One commonly offered explanation,” wrote pharmacologist Horatio Wood at the time, “is that there is only a certain amount of blood in the body, and that if the blood be drawn to one part there must be less in another part. Surely, however, the amount of blood drawn to the skin by a mustard plaster is too small sensibly to affect the general mass in the body. It is more probable that the phenomena of counter-irritation are the result of reflex disturbances of the vaso-motor nerves which influence the size of the blood vessels, or of the trophic nerves which directly affect nutrition.”

    • You are wrong. I did not steal anything. If you take some time and read both articles you will see that although they address the same email, they are different.

      Accusing someone of plagiarism is extremely serious and I am highly offended that you would do so for two articles which are NOT THE SAME.

  71. Our pediatrician (you want a name? Janine Young), actually did say that Vick’s has been through trials that prove it useful in combating coughs and congestion, and I’ve read other articles (where? On the baby websites, probably on NPR as well) that say cough medicine is ineffective but honey and Vick’s are effective against coughs. I have not heard that you can rub it on your feet, but our naturopath (you want a name? Lee White) recommended a treatment where you bathe your feet in cold, then hot water and put wool socks on before bed. It affects the circulation to improve stuffy/runny noses. Reflexology tells us that there are many points on the feet that affect other parts of the body, so maybe there is a connection to the respiratory system, or the nervous system that affects coughs.

    • Reflexology is a load of rubbish. I know some people are going to get upset by that statement but it is true. There is no mechanism by which it could work. As far as the advice of your naturopath, I would not stake my child’s health on it.

      And cough medicine as been proven to have no effect other than placebo, although that placebo effect is strong. As long as you know that it is the placebo effect and not active.

      • How do you explain the “placebo effect” when this Vicks on the feet is used on a small child who can’t even talk yet and who wouldn’t even know what “placebo” t means, and stops coughing? All I know is that this is the first thing that has given me relief from continual coughing all week..

      • Pat, you don’t seem to understand what the placebo effect is, or how it works. It works very well on small children, regardless of whether or not they can talk. In fact, the placebo effect also works on animals (veterinary homeopathy, anyone?).

        This is a complicated and powerful psychological effect that has been used to treat soldiers with terrible wounds by giving them water instead of morphine. The human mind is a powerful thing.

        Ben Goldacre has a superb discussion on the topic in his book Bad Medicine, and I think Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst covered it in Trick or Treatment as well, if you are interested those two explanation will give you great insight into how extraordinary the placebo effect is.

  72. I was having a coughing fit last night that wouldnt stop. My throat was already sore, so I was miserable, plus I know I was disturbing my husband’s sleep. I tried the Vicks and within minutes my cough had calmed down quite a bit, but not completely. I would say it probably took about 15 minutes before it completely stopped and I slept the best I have since I have been sick! I am so glad I came across this idea. I will use it from now on on my family!

  73. Dealing with a cold and cough all week, someone told me to try Vicks on the bottom of my feet to control my couph. I tried it and slept all night. I took a hot shower today and reapplied the Vicks and still no coughing! From personal experience I would say this works!

    • Hi

      I agree with you, my daughter’s had a cough for 3-4 wks now (doc wouldnt prescribe Anti’s), she got 2 hrs sleep the othernight, so I looked on Internet and saw the VICS FOOT thing !! She’d been coughing non stop at my mums too, soooo……..put it on lastnight and it worked but probably took about 20minutes, she slept til 2.00am and coughed just once, then woke up at 8.30am this morning it definatley works, why???? Idont know either !!!
      Off to Docs though this morning as think she may have a chest infection.x

  74. Honestly? Vicks is cheap and readily available. Who cares whether it’s the ingredients or merely a placebo effect that make the cough slow or stop… if it does even a little, I say take the help where you can get it.

    Though I haven’t personally tried it yet.

    • My concern is really with the way the claims are made. The email I received this in was full of every red flag known to man. Whenever you see those things you need to be skeptical. That’s what I did. Turns out there is a heap of anecdotal evidence that it works (which is scientifically of very low value) and some indication that it might have an effect has surfaced since I wrote the article.

      You should still be skeptical though.

  75. I’m just wondering if there is something specific about putting upon the feet that makes it work, or did I miss something? Now I feel like putting lavender oil on my feet out of curiosity. I’m finally getting off tons of medications I’ve been on for other problems and I can honestly say that drugs were pushed on me and I actually needed certain medications, but to just trust all doctore blindly because they took an oath to me now seems crazy. Our politicians take oaths that are just as serious and are they following up with their oaths? I learned the hard way that drugs are not answers to many problems. I’m not coughing but find this blog very interesting. Drug companies are huge and their political connection is huge. There is huge money in it. Trusting all doctors foe ME is like believing in Santa. There are good and bad doctors, just like any other profession.

    • I agree with you, there are good and bad doctors. It is important, though, to make sure that when you treat yourself with something, that treatment is supported by evidence.
      I need to re-visit this particular post though, because I feel that I made some mistakes. Unfortunately I just don’t have the time right now, hopefully I will when I have my December holidays.

    • I am nearly 62 yrs old my Grandparents and parents always applied camphor oil to the soles of the feet and chest area to every child who had a chesty cough, stuffy nose or who was just plain fretful, I in turn have always followed thier example and found this to work. I am not highly educated don’t know the why’s and wherefore’s but I do know this can help produce a better nights sleep.

  76. Joining the chorus of people who say, “it works for me.” My mom suggested this remedy a few years ago when I complained that a bad sinus infection had me coughing all night. I was exhausted from lack of sleep– as was my husband whose sleep was disturbed by all the racket. I was totally skeptical. Frankly, a lifetime of experience had shown that my mom’s home remedies rarely work. Secondly, I am a medical writer and couldn’t find any studies that backed up this claim–nor did the manufacturer suggest it. But 1) I was desperate; 2) there didn’t seem to be much of a downside and 3) I had a jar in the cabinet. I slathered it on the soles of my feet, slipped on some socks and climbed into bed, hacking away as usual. Within five minutes, I noticed that I had stopped coughing and soon was soundly asleep for the rest of the night. When my husband came down with the same sinus infection a few days later, he used the Vicks (or CVS generic/equivalent) and it worked for him as well. Since then, we have discovered that this method also works to put us back to a deep sleep when we wake up in the middle of the night for whatever reason. Can’t explain why it works– maybe because camphor and menthol are both topical analgesics or maybe it just relaxes you? (like a good foot message?) All I know is that my 50-something husband and I now sleep with a container on the bed stand and use it as needed. No more getting up at 2 am to read a book until we get sleepy. Wish someone would do a study or run this past an expert on coughs and/or sleep

  77. While I was trying to find out why Vicks works on the feet I came to this site. I do not want to argue or debate, however I have just spent a very miserable week Coughing until my rib cage and stomach were so sore it was unbareable. I tried several things and nothing was improving the problem I continued to get worse instead of better. So I went on line to see what would help my cough especially through the night time. I will be honest when I saw an article that said to use Vicks on my feet I laughed out loud. I was ashamed to ask my husband to get me a jar of Vicks, because I thought he would think I have lost my mind. I tried it and people can say what they want but for ME IT WORKED, and I will continue to use it anytime I have a cough. Crazy or not as the old saying goes the proof is in the pudding….I am 64 years old and this is a new one for me!!

  78. SD, as already pointed out the skin is definitely able to absorb substances; we have pores whereby the skin “breathes” and can also absorb things. Many meds are given via the skin b/c of this quality of the skin….something pregnant moms need to beware of as well b/c it can get through to the fetus! If Vicks can be rubbed on the chest, much closer to vital organs and that is the directions on the jar, then putting it on the feet, should pose no danger. There is so much we do NOT know about the body and so many safe simple fixes go unused b/c know-it-all-doctors who think they are the Supreme Being on All Knowledge of the Medial variety won’t back it and won’t put out a scientific study on it. BUT if you and anyone else doubts, then perhaps next time you are stricken with the flu and an evil cough that will not allow you to rest and you need good quality rest/sleep to get well, then perhaps you can conduct your own study and see for yourself.

    BG/RN

    • Hi Beki,
      I have to disagree with your statement that doctors don’t want to see effective treatments. That would go against the Hippoctaric oath they all swear. Now, that’s not to say that all doctors are great, but the great majority are deeply dedicated to quality healthcare and making sure their patients are well taken care of.
      That said, it is not the doctor’s responsibility to run trials of these suggested remedies, although they certainly have the ability and my personal GP does run a lot of trials from his practice.
      Finally, I am committed to re-visiting this issue, I just don’t have the time to do so right now.

      • “I have to disagree with your statement that doctors don’t want to see effective treatments. That would go against the Hippoctaric oath they all swear. Now, that’s not to say that all doctors are great, but the great majority are deeply dedicated to quality healthcare and making sure their patients are well taken care of.
        That said, it is not the doctor’s responsibility to run trials of these suggested remedies, although they certainly have the ability and my personal GP does run a lot of trials from his practice.
        Finally, I am committed to re-visiting this issue, I just don’t have the time to do so right now.”

        SD, I must clear up the misconceptions I created: I apologize for wording my comment in a way that makes it sound like I gave a blanket dis to all medical doctors. I do NOT feel that they don’t want to see effective treatments…of course they do, but many are close minded, not even willing to submit that cheaper, easier, safer solutions may exist. Sadly some of that comes from the pharmaceutical culture they were trained and raised in. Yes they all want to live the oath, take good care of their patients (as to their perspective). And lastly just fyi the whole medical community are charged with research to make things better. Many do, most don’t b/c it is so time, energy consuming and financially as well. I really liked the comment from the dr. who got sick and tried it himself! And to end: kudos to you for being willing to revisit the issue. Like someone else pointed out without those who question things, things don’t change for the better.

  79. Your piece of prose here may lack proper citation, but I can tell you from personal experience this works. I’m doing it now. My boyfriend thinks it’s wierd, so I googled it to see if other people do it. Well, it’s been about ten minutes now and my cough stopped.

  80. Sept 5, 2011 just found out about this, my wife had a hacking cough for several weeks try it last night slept through the night. We believe.
    remember vitamin C wasn’t recognized for many years

  81. I just put my son to bed and he has been coughing non-stop for 45 minutes. I rubbed Vicks on his feet and covered with socks. Not a peep out of him since. It really does work. Still going to the DR in the AM though.

  82. Angela, I agree the above email has it’s flaws and I think it’s great that you are pointing this out to people. Unfortunately, in today’s world too many people circulate email hoaxes, or ones with half truths without ever checking into them. Personally, I don’t read them anymore or if one does catch my interest I at least check to see if it is true before forwarding them.

    I am a little curious here though. What exactly are you looking for as evidence? Isn’t trying something for yourself evidence enough? For myself, if I try something and it works I would call that a proven anecdote, not another unproven anecdote. Unless maybe it doesn’t work for you???

    Clinical trials are very timely and expensive and one for Vicks on the feet will probably never be done. Are you aware that there are thousands of drugs that doctors prescribe on a daily basis to people for something other than what they were approved for by the FDA? This is called off-label use… I will give you an example… Wellbutrin (Bupropion) FDA approved for depression, was commonly used for smoking cessation. It worked so well that eventually they did get FDA approval for it and it is now marketed under the name Zyban for smoking cessation. This is how I look at Vicks on the feet. It’s an off-label use for it.

    Now, why won’t they do that with Vicks? Well, first off how much does a bottle of Vicks cost? Less than $10, less than $5? (I don’t know since my CVS brand I used last night expired 7/11.) Clinical trials cost a company millions of dollars and takes sometimes years to complete. So if someone did spend the millions of dollars to hold a trail and got FDA approval, how much do you think they would have to sell it for to recoup the money they spent holding the trail? And who would buy it when they can go to their local CVS, Walmart, Walgreens, and buy the same thing for less? It is just not feasible that this will ever be done. Unless maybe you are a billionaire and want to find someone to help you with a trail. :-)

    Anyway, I am not saying that it works every time, or for every one, but it has work for me several times in the past, including my expired batch last night. So proven to this girl at least!

    Oh, and you are correct, your skin is an amazing barrier and it protects us from many things, BUT, it is far from being virtually impermeable.

    • Hi Sheila,
      Unfortunately, no matter how many people leave replies to this post that “Vicks worked for them…” (etc.), these will never amount to anything more than anecdotes, the plural of anecdote is not “data”.
      Why is this? Because there is no control, no substance that looks and smells and feels like Vicks and comes in the same bottle, but contains no active ingredients, for us to compare (that would be called a “placebo”).
      If I don’t know whether you are putting Vicks or the placebo on my feet, but my cough improves, and it turns out that I got the placebo, then we would know that the improvement was a result of my expectation to get better when treated in this way. This would be a randomised, placebo controlled trial.
      Until a randomised, placebo controlled trial is run to determine whether or not Vicks works in this way, we will not know that it does.
      The perception that running such a trial would cost millions of dollars does not seem right to me. If every trial cost millions of dollars then there would be NO clinically tested medication. I’m sure than some large-scale longitudinal studies do run into the millions, but without data to substantiate this claim it is best we don’t make it.
      Finally, regarding Zyban, it may have been used off-label to help people quit smoking, but I guarantee you that BEFORE it went on-label, there was a thorough round of placebo controlled trials to determine it’s effectiveness.

      Thank you for your reply, I don’t often write on this post anymore because very few people bring up good points, but you did. :-)

      AM

      • The problem is that you properly debunk the article in ONE sense, but are completely not scientific in another. All of your points about the manipulative language of the email are insightful. However, you gave zero scientific analysis for your conclusion about the actual claim. No clinical trials have been done on this, that I can find (and I do my research). However, a proper clinical trial would do FORMALLY what people are doing informally all over the internet on this topic. Essentially, it would ask people with the proper symptoms to slather their feet with vics or a generic equivalent and self report on the results. The only difference would be that some people would be given Vics, and some would be given a placebo like Vaseline with some scenting. Based on the overwhelming response throughout the internet on this topic that people claim that it DOES work, and serious lack of any contra-reporting (other than skeptics hypothesizing).
        Also, you are absolutely medically errant when you reasoned: “Your skin is an amazing barrier and is virtually impermeable. If this were true putting cheese in your socks would allow you to taste cheese. Doesn’t quite seem right does it?” I can site hundreds of medical sources to prove otherwise – both in Allopathic medicine (ie western) and Eastern Medicine. Your skin is a like a one way door. It lets IN anything you slather onto it. Though it keeps most things in (your innards, blood, bones) toxins come out of it through tiny things called pores (i’m sure you noticed this during your acne phase of life) and this can happen anywhere on your body given the right (actually unhealthy) internal conditions.
        Try the garlic – its actually true. Most people WILL taste it if its in your socks. Also, its the entire basis for putting medications on patches.
        Seriously, you may be very logical in some regards, but please do not enter into a medical debate when you clearly have no background therein.

      • All right, it has been a long time since I wrote this article and I have not looked at the topic since. I think that it is time for me to re-visit the vicks on the feet topic, as well as a few others, and do a few follow up articles.

        I am looking forward to improving my knowledge and refining my position on these topics.

    • If I am able to read this sentence, correctly…. I shall respond with this: Isn’t this “rubbish”, the same reason you are here?? X-P

  83. The skin is not the barrier you might think.. It absorbs cemicals from schampoo, from creme, make up etc. And it absorb also herbs, medical treatment, ex: aurveda massage with herbs, as well as vick vaborub.. and other similarly treatment. In our bodies exist many cemicals. For ex an adult might have 700 different in their body. A newborned baby, gets from its mother and might have 300-400 already from the start.
    Noone know where this collections will end for the human beeings. Artificially cemicals are not good for our cells..

    To use olivsoap instead of modern parfumed soaps, schampoo etc, is much better for this chain, to avoid babies to be borned with a large set from start.
    The Vick VapoRub, is based on natural herbs and minerals. Like the AurVeda is. Some of the herbs are our natural medicines.

    -Skeptic detectives might reflect that we have many sorts of coughs. Some of them, get better, with herbs. Some does not. Its like penicillin, it does not work on every bacteria. But herbs does not kill all bacterias (not the good ones) like penicillin does. We need a big set of the good ones to keep going strong.

  84. CAN I PLEASE remind every skeptic out there that the world was thought to be square and flat?? I’m not going to get technical or use fancy words to explain how I personally feel just simply going to say “opinions are like rear ends…everyone has one!!” We have people who say “works” we have a lot less that say”Doesn’t work”. I’ve tried it, sware by it, will continue to use on myself and my 3 kids and if its all the same I don’t need a closed minded arrogant glass half empty person to tell me other wise!
    Someday when YOU step away from your computer to have a cold/cough or have a family for that, I guarantee when your kids are coughing, crying, can’t sleep nor can you because of the constant barking of their lungs I will put money on it that YOU will do WHATEVER comes to mind, try ANYTHING you can to hopefully first help your childs cough(even if the label doesn’t say so) and second to get relief from your own lack of sleep!
    Can I also say that the avon product skin so soft was once ised as a moisturizer in baths but MILLIONS of people across planet now use it on horses and people for flea and fly control which is NOT on the label but works wonders!! Hope you have a wonderful adventurous life filled with trying new things and stepping away from your skeptic ideology to CHILL the HECK OUT!!!

  85. Certainly anecdotal evidence or personal testimony cannot prove an hypothesis, but that doesn’t mean it lacks any evidential value at all. Most of the positive comments here are direct reports, which actually carry a bit more weight than hearsay accounts – they only properly become anecdotes if repeated to support a claim. If sufficiently numerous, it might beg the question of how so many people might be reporting the same experience, which is simply a call to form possible hypotheses that might explain it, which might then be scientifically tested.

    Reports of drug side-effects are given some degree of credence, because of the potential negative consequences if such reports are ignored. Let’s say that there are many reports that rubbing Vick’s on the soles of the feet causes third-degree burns. Should people not be warned that this could be an effect, simply because it has not been scientifically proven? Of course not. Likewise, claiming that one should never recommend anything based on personal experience would be foolish – we do it all the time! (Automatically believing someone else’s personal experience would also be foolish, of course.) Just don’t use it as the basis of a claim you’re making for the contents of a bottle for which you’re running a nation-wide marketing campaign.

  86. “Your skin is an amazing barrier and is virtually impermeable.” Perhaps ‘Skeptic detective’ you should explain to all the doctors who regularly prescribe hrt patches and oestrogen gel that they’ve been getting it all wrong. The word ‘Science’ should be removed from your tag line, leaving you with only the more accurate terms ‘skepticism’ and ‘atheism’.

    • I believe this may be a misunderstanding on both sides’ parts.

      Ihate to pick at semantics, but that would be why Skeptic Detective said “virtually impermeable”. He means that it is close to impermeable, not that it is fully impermeable. Perhaps you should re-read?

      Also, Skeptic Detective, if you meant “nearly impermeable”, that is what you should have put, not “virtually impermeable”. The latter implies that skin is almost completely impermeable; the former is more accurate since while chemicals, very small particles, and rays can absorb through the skin, larger particles such as bacteria cannot, unless the skin is torn. The skin on the soles of the feet and palms of the hands is less permeable due to thickness, yes, and one could make an argument that Vicks vaporub, which contains menthol and camphor, *could* pass through the skin, but it seems like it would be much better and much easier just to put it under your nose so to combat a stuffy nose. :)

      On the feet and taste thing, Skeptic, you’re right and wrong – right in the sense that you can’t taste with your feet, but wrong reason for it. The obvious reason we can’t taste a cheese-filled sock is because there aren’t any taste buds on our feet, and cheese flavoring wouldn’t migrate to the tongue from the feet anyway, it has no reason to do so. So while rubbing vicks on your feet MIGHT work in principal of the chemicals absorbing through the skin and into your blood stream, and from there to the swollen nose, it absolutely does not indicate that it cures a cough – because Vicks is not a cough suppressant! Camphor and menthol, chemically, do nothing to reduce coughing. They can only reduce swelling in the nasal passages; they do not break up mucus. After all, you can’t cure a cough with a peppermint candy cane, so why would vicks, a compound rich in menthol, cure a cough? It’s an advertising thing, that’s why. All in all, if you want to reduce a stuffy nose, use vicks or a nasal decongestant. If you want to reduce a cough, use cough medicine.

      (I’m an organic chem student going into microbiology, by the by.)

      • Guess what? What I’m about to say will either furiate more people, blow your mind, or make you curious. I’ve been suffering with severely dry cracked heals that split with fizzures and make it painful to walk. I read on line that it could be caused by athletes foot. Anyway, tried to get some info.online to heal my heals and a man said that he used Vicks vaporub on his foot and it cured the problem. By the way, I tried athletes foot cream and it didn’t work.. So I decided to try Vicks. It worked. My feet are as soft as a baby’s butt.

      • Here’s the problem with trying to self-diagnose using the internet: You get it wrong without realising it. Chances are you did not have athlete’s foot, and that the heavy, oily cream in the Vicks protected and moisturised your skin and that’s what led to the healing.

  87. Just tried it. It worked. Haters gonna hate, but the results speak for themselves. Make sure to apply generously.

    Besides, there isn’t any harm in trying it is there?

    And the thing that really irritates me is that people are hatting on the idea without even trying it.

  88. your wrong, I’ve tried this on myself and my children and grand children and it’s always worked. so maybe instead of bashing it you should just try it, and untill then shut up.

  89. I am glad there are sites like this to debunk false stories. Vicks has now been proven innefectual even when used as described by the company, and can even make coughs *worse*. Also, it can even be dangerous for children…

    So this whole “vicks on feet” campaign smacks to me of a coordinated effort by Vicks themselves to salvage some sort of hope for their product. You’ll note that almost all the posters used the term “Vicks VaporRub” without mentioning the many copycat products you can by that have exactly the same ingredients. Also note that almost nothing works 100% of the time…but this is the claim made by many here.

    OK…so now to the question of Vicks on feet. I happen to have a horrible cough as part of a rather un-fun sinus infection that I got following a cold…hence my searching on the topic of curing a cough and finding this huge amount of sites promoting Vicks.

    I just so happened to have Vicks in my cabinet…so bad cough + Vicks makes for a good test, no?

    I put the Vaporub on about 30 minutes ago and I am still coughing up a lung. So here’s a counter anecdote to the flurry of fake stories being posted on here. It does not work and is a complete hoax. I would not have tried it unless I already had the stuff in my cabinet…so “sorry” manufacturers of Vicks…you made no money from me to test this idea.

    Keep up the good work skeptic!

    Maitri

    • Well, sorry it didn’t work for you! I have the CVS brand of Medicated Chest Rub, same ingredients as VICKS… have used it many times for the same type of cough that you just explained. It doesn’t make the cough go away and it isn’t a quick fix, but it has improved MY cough greatly every time I have used it. Some things don’t work for everyone. Sorry it didn’t work for you, but that doesn’t mean it was a hoax created by VICKS or that it didn’t work for others!

      Sincerely,

      Sheila Barker
      NOT A VICKS REP!

    • well, for one you are wrong, and that’s o.k…not everyone mentioned brand name on here….you just equated the ones that did, as being all. of course the ones that mentioned a brand name will weigh more on the conscience brain than ones that didn’t……secondly it’s just a general practice for people to name generic products as name brand products because it is easier to communicate familiar terms than to include a an explanation of a product in the generic form….i say “i need to take some advil” i don’t really take “advil” but a store brand of ibuprofen. So basically, you ranted for nothing….just saying.

  90. So, even if there is no scientific data and there are skeptics out there I CAN SAY THIS: Right now it is 2:17 a.m. and my 4-year old Damian JUST went back to sleep. About 45 minutes ago he woke me up with his loud coughing. So I remember reading something about VapoRub on children’s feet and Googled it. So I tried it on him and his coughing started to slow down, and now it seems like it has stopped completely. Bottom line, there is nothing harmful in VaporRub’s ingredients…so, forget what anyone says (even me, for Pete’s sake). It may not work for EVERYONE…it may not work 100% of the time…BUT IT WORKED FOR ME!! Draw your own conclusions. Does not hurt to try it out, right? I can tell you this much: next time ANY of my 3 children have a night time cough (or even if I have one myself) I know I will be grabbing my little jar of VapoRub and a pair of socks…so me and my family can go back to sleep while the skeptics keep on debating this issue on the internet. Good night everyone!

  91. Not proven, of course, does not mean false. We should be skeptical even of our skepticism, in other words. And skeptical of being skeptical of being skeptical…

    Certainly the claim that it works 100% of the time is demonstrably false, since a couple people in these comments have reported no effect. The doubting believers, of course, might claim it wasn’t slathered on thick enough (how thick is “thick”?).

    Some here seem to be on the path to forming a hypothesis as to how it might possibly work. Different parts of the claim could be independently tested, and may have already been. An interesting claim is that regardless of where the Vicks (or generic equivalent) is applied, the result will be similar – that is, that the effect is not topical, but systematic. In other words, if there are double-blind studies confirming the effectiveness of Vicks when applied to the chest or back, that would make a claim for a similar effect, but through the soles of the feet, not only more plausible, but more easily testable, as well.

    That could even be something that Vicks could choose to test, or not – the problem, of course, is that while proving it works could make them money, proving it doesn’t work, or even casting doubt on its effectiveness, could cost them money. That brings us back to the problem that what gets scientifically tested and what doesn’t, as well as the results reported, has been thoroughly corrupted by commercial interests, to the point of being left not knowing what to believe. Nor could we necessarily trust them not to cadge the results, as long as the profit model continues to trump the search for truth.

    Anyway, apologies for the disjointed and ad hoc character of these comments – none of them have been scientifically tested.

    Demanding that non-scientists scientifically prove what they believe is, of course, not only futile, but loaded – they’re not scientists, after all. We all believe any number of things, true or false, from experience, or just inclination. Even scientists and skeptics. There is almost surely a pragmatic basis for that (see C.S. Peirce), perhaps along the line that belief frees us to act, while doubt is more likely to paralyze us. A desperate person is not in a state to easily sit still, in other words, but might also be more susceptible to a placebo effect.

    Certainly, allowance has to be made for already prevalent false beliefs, which might bias us against even testing counterclaims – this delayed doctors from adopting basic hygiene practices for decades, at the cost of untold numbers of lives.

  92. I’m trying this on my husband as we speak. He has had an annoying cough for the last several nights and we really need some sleep. I hope it works! I will post my findings.

  93. I was always curious about this topic as well. I always thought it was an old wives tale and that the only real thing it did was maybe the menthol in the vapor rub made your feet tingle and feel good.

    However, I recently took my 2 year old to the doctors office for a sniffle and cough, and the doctor recommendations sheet they gave me told me to do just that. I asked the nurse if this was really a legit remedy, and she said that had been telling this to people for a couple of years now.

    Seems like their might be some science behind it, even if it isn’t readily explainable.

  94. Haha, you skeptics make me laugh. I love how suddenly once a bunch of anecdotal evidence hits your perception you start having time for the theory that it might work, whereas before you would knock people for subscribing to it based on their overwhelming anecdotal evidence.

    I believe hard-line skeptics and religious fanatics have more in common with each other than regular folks. They’re both closed minded devotees to their systems and not only block out but actually attack what doesn’t fit their paradigm.

    • Well, you are wrong on all accounts. Anecdotal evidence has absolutely no value as evidence, and if there were ten thousand comments all saying “It worked for me…” I wouldn’t give them a second thought.
      However, some comments have been made with reasonable scientific points which I am prepared to consider (when I’m less busy at work).

      I can’t speak for hard-line skeptics, or any other skeptics for that matter, but I can speak for myself, and you are completely wrong in your characterisation of me as a close minded devotee to any system. You bring the evidence, I’ll evaluate it on it’s own merit and decide accordingly.

      • Seconded. I’d also like to see trial runs of the Vicks on Feet test, not anecdotal evidence. Anyone who’s done any sort of experiment before, and that should include anyone who’s ever taken a science class that had a lab and EVERY college student seeing as general Biology and Chemistry are required courses to graduate at many universities, should be aware that you can’t just say something is the case without proof to back it up. And your word alone is not good enough proof. Sure, you can *say* that the sky is green, but that doesn’t mean that it’s proven to be the case. You can *say* that vicks on your feet works for you, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a placebo effect, or that it works for everyone. There just needs to be more data, that’s all Skeptic is saying.

        I think, good sir, you either have a severe problem with anyone who disagrees with you, a problem with skeptics in general for some reason, or that you may be trolling. If it is a problem you have with skeptics, I’m not sure why – it’s not a crime to want evidence of something before you accept it, it’s just a more scientific way of looking at things. If it’s a problem with people who disagree with you, then I suggest you get some help for that, because not everyone’s going to agree with your view and that’s entirely a good thing – if everyone thought the same, think of how boring this world would be. If you’re trolling, then you’re not a very funny troll. Go back to troll school and learn what you missed.

        In any case, your behavior’s very rude. Not all of the skeptics out there are just talking out of their asses. In fact, the relatively decent skeptics out there, like me, look down on those pseudo-skeptics, in the same way a person of faith might look down on a religious zealot as a bad example of their beliefs or an ethnic man might look down upon another ethnic man who is perpetuating a stereotype about his ethnicity. Maybe you need to re-learn the Rule of Thumper when it comes to discussions like this: If you can’t say anything nice about someone and their honest opinion, then perhaps you should say nothing at all.

  95. Well, I’m not convinced yet. I’ve had a cough for the past three weeks and I tried this remedy last night. I must admit I slept well though. I’m still coughing this evening. I stumbled on this website and read several of the postings. I plan to try it again tonight. I think at the very best it may provide temporary relief. I’ll probably get laughed to scorn for this, but I would like to hear what a reflexologist would have to say about this remedy.

  96. I first heard about this practice today from a regular passenger who rides on my bus. She was on about two days ago and offered to call 911 if she continued coughing. (just kidding) I picked her up today and told me another bus driver recommened this very treatment and also received the same advice while waiting in line at the bank. She said she tried it and could not believe the results after having spent several days using syrup, tea and honey. I see the skeptics and I am one myself so I am waiting to do it myself.

  97. It worked for me. I just had the worst upper respiratory illness and had spent 1 sleepless night coughing. I had coughed myself to death during the following day and was headed for another long sleepless night. I heard about this and tried it the that night. I slept all night long. Was it the vapor rub? It was the only difference in the routine.

  98. Phew, have I poked the hornets nest with this one. Thanks to everyone for the feedback, I am definitely going to do more research into the skin permeability. Workload permitting, I will try and post another article with updated findings.

    • you can’t debunk things that people swear by worked for them, but i do know people do like to get on peoples website and argue for the fun of it just to get a rise out of people….it is very plausible that half of the testimonies are just ribbing you, some are defenses against what they feel as a personal attack against family remedies past down through generations….either way the truth is somewhere in the middle…..my thing is…if a placebo does the same thing as the product being tested…..then in actuality the product works…either way the product is a tool to use and it’s effectiveness whether physically or mentally is based on results of the test.

  99. Oh, and my 4 yo coughed all day yesterday. I was worried about him sleepiing all nite. At bedtime my wife was talking to the mother-in-law and she told us about this. I was skeptical as well. (I debunk myths as well Angela.) We tried it and he slept all nite, with the exception of one coughing spell around 4 am. May be just coincidental, but it could actually be a causal relationship at work.

  100. This author is all wet where skin absorbtion is concerned. All you have to do is stop and think about all the meds that are prescribed or used by hospitals. Fentynal patches, nitroglycerin paste, topical analgesics are all prescribed/ applied to the skin surface to be absorbed. Smoking cessation med Nicoderm is a transdermal application as well. I was a Little Ceasars manager for years. I could taste the products I handled and I absorbed it so much that one day when working outside under the hot sun, I began sweating, and a friend (downwind) looked at me and said “do you smell pizza?” This author is all wet where skin absorbtion is concerned.

  101. I am also a skeptic, however how many different ways can you use a dryer sheet? The directions on the box say you put the sheet in the dryer, however you can rub it on your clothes and hair to stop static, you can use it on your car for bugs, you can also use them to help get baked food off your dishes! What about baking soda? What about chocolate? Vodka? and Orange peels? So many things have alternative usages! Just because it is not on the directions doesn’t mean it can’t work!

  102. also try rubbing Vicks into the dent behind the ear and the outside of cheek on teething babies, also works on adults for toothache & earache

    • That might well work because menthol, which is in vicks, is a mild anaesthetic. That cool feeling you get when eating a peppermint patty, or drinking peppermint schnapps, comes from menthol. It’s well-known that menthol can soothe pain, so that may explain a lot about why that works.

  103. I was told by a client to try it as I have bronchitis. I was sceptical but it worked for me better than I could have hoped for. Yes it is anecdotal. But, as you read the comments above, it is clear that the only people arguing against it are the people that have not or will not try it.
    Try it. If it works for you like it did me, who cares what anyone thinks? If they choose not to try it let them cough. It is their business.

  104. Also – I’d like you to find me proof, other than your opinion that the skin is virtually impermeable, Since you want a clinical trial done for something so simple to test yourself as Vicks on Feet … I think you owe us some proof for the above claim – which by the way is quite false. Skin is a barrier but it is FAR from being impermeable!

  105. Just try it … there may not be a controlled trial to explain why it works but it is pretty easy to check it out for yourself IF it works. I can personally attest that for me and my family, putting Vicks on our feet provides almost instant relief from coughs and nasal congestion. I really don’t care WHY it works. Quiet comfortable nights are the only proof I need.

  106. PS I think the reason for putting the salve on your soles is that putting it anywhere else is painful. I tried the chest and under the nose fist. Ouch! Burns. With the salve on my feet, covered by heavy socks and all my bedding, I could not smell the vapors so I don’t think it worked by inhaling. I believe absorption is the delivery method. As one other commenter noted, many drugs are put in patches for transdermal delivery.

  107. I also thought the idea of putting Vicks on my feet was hogwash–right next door to Voodoo and Witch Doctor visits. But, after 5 nights of virtually no sleep due to explosive, constant, and painful coughing, in desperation, I tried it. I used Equate, the WalMart knockoff. But, I slept several hours with only one coughing episode and it didn’t last long or make me feel like I was drowning in my bronchial mucus. I didn’t use it the next night when I went to bed because I attributed the previous night’s relief from coughing to my possibly getting well–not because of the salve on my feet. But, by 4:30 the next morning, I was again desperate since I’d coughed continuously and miserably since 10 pm and had gotten not one second of sleep. Within 10 minutes of applying the salve, I was asleep and was awakened by my alarm clock at 7:30 am–not by coughing. So, I’m now a believer. I feel bad for almost laughing at my friend who recommended this treatment and have apologized to her for scoffing at this idea. I suggest that you not write this one off until you’ve tried it or someone you know and trust has tried it. There’s nothing to lose–but a cough.

  108. Not only does Vicks Vapor Rub work when massaged into the soles of my feet, it has other benefits. I think it soothes the feet and warms them and maybe it will help eliminate some of the painful symptoms of neuropathy. And I am noticing something else. It has apparently helped the fungal infection under
    my toe nails. I think all this is worth exploring. When it comes to neuropathy this may provide no more than comfort, but if the anti-fungal properties of Camphor and Eucalyptis oil in the Vaper Rub are really killing the nail fungus, that’s a marvelous discovery.

  109. When I was little my parents always did this when I got sick. The only difference is they would use saliva instead of vaporub. It always worked for me. I was just telling my husband about it and knowing it sounded crazy I decided to search it online and came to your page. Glad to hear others know about this.

    • A friend told me that her daughter always rubs vicks on the bottom of her feet when she has a cough and swears by it. I have heard this numerous times before but have never tried it. I had my husband go and purchase a jar just awhile ago and have just now rubbed my feet with it. So far no cough……..time will tell.

    • Our parents always used Vicks on us and it was very comforting
      and love the smell. The smell of vicks brings so many great memories of my childhood. I just rediscovered it and used it on my mother in laws nuropathy in her hands and feet and she went to bed with a smile. She claimed to feel much better. Thank God and Vicks! And its not drugs!!!!!!!

  110. My sister heard this from a customer that heard her coughing out a lung on a phone conversation. After 2 weeks of a bad bad cough that all the doctors perscriptions didnt touch, she gave in and tried it. She rubbed her feet with the Vicks and put socks on and found that she did stop coughing. She even dozed off for 3 hours without coughing once. She is re-applying now and going to bed.

  111. Pingback: 2010 in review « The Skeptic Detective·

  112. As the wold’s biggest skeptic and scoffer of home remedies, I can tell you that this actually does work every time. My nagging husband begged me to try it, after days of an unrelenting cough, and I slept through the night for the first time in a week after doing this.
    P.S. Whoever the this person is, he/she sounds like a total tool. As in, the kind of person you steer away from at parties, church, or any social gathering where he/she might have a captive audience. As the old saying goes, “don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it!”

    • Anecdotal evidence followed by ad hominem attack – way to go on making a completely awful argument, its two logical fallacies in a row. Nice one.

  113. Instead of wanting hard scientific evidence, why don’t you try it for yourself. You see Science does not have the answer to everything or at least hasen’t come of up with the answer yet.

    • Because if I tried it for myself, all I would have is yet another unproven anecdote (like all the others on this comments page). Anecdotes are not evidence and do not count as proof of a claim.
      The argument that “Science does not have the answer to everything” is actually weaker and less significant than your suggestion that I “try i for myself”. I never claimed that science did have all the answers and it has no bearing on the matter at hand.

      • Science is not God is not Science.

        Both of you are correct. Angela for wanting to understand why and Why Don’t You for saying that if Angela wants proof, she should experiment with trying it.

        Science is too busy doing more interesting things to test this theory, so why not test it yourself and record your results? Why not start up an experiment and do several trial runs on several people you know? What’s the harm? You’ll have your scientific evidence. If something is a mystery, find out why. We may not know everything about the world, but we know some of it. You needn’t be a scientist in title to figure out why the vicks on feet thing works or doesn’t work.

        Furthermore, it may not work for everyone. I can’t use vicks at all – it does nothing for me that something like sudafed doesn’t do better, and it’s not a cough suppressant. Furthermore, it’s messy, so why use it when there’s something better I can use? Likely, the vicks on feet trick would not fix my cough, as it doesn’t even do much for my stuffy nose!

  114. If the skin is such a great barrier, why do birth control patches work? Why do nicotine patches work? Why do motion sickness patches work? Why do nitro-glycerin patches work? Things DO absorb through the skin or none of the above medications would work very well, now would they? I have a terrible cough and cold and was so desperate for relief from the cough that I tried the Vicks on the feet thing this week. IT WORKS!!!

  115. Ihave a terrible cough and until now I’ve no relief. So last night I tried it.
    And it does work. for the first time in months I could watch tv without disturbing
    my family members.

  116. I was doing research on this (because I do use it this way and a friend asked me about it) and it was nice to your reasoning on here. I don’t know why it works, but I have found that it does. The only difference is that it doesn’t so much cure the coughing, it’s more clearing out the sinuses so I can breathe at night. I use it for my kids (the childrens vicks) and both my husband and i use it. It would be nice if there was research on it.

  117. Tried this last night, as my husband had a dry and persistent cough when he was trying to sleep. Put some on the bottom of his soles and he never coughed once again through the night. I had also tried it some years ago with Buckley’s rub as well. It worked on my children too!!!

  118. it TOTALLY worked for me. At lunch yesterday someone suggested i try the vicks on the soles, as i was complaining about my lack of sleep due to night time coughing. At 3:10 a.m. i got out of bed, applied the vicks, put on socks, laid down and was AMAZED that i didn’t cough again the ENTIRE night. So there you have my surprised experience

  119. I think it is just the fact that you don’t want to smear vicks near your children’s face or anywhere that they could get it on their hands and into their eyes and mouth. I have used this method on all three of my kids and myself and I believe it to work. Don’t know if it is the fact that it can actually be absorbed thru your skin or just the vapors rising from your feet to meet your breath. I am currently using it on my infant as I have with my other two when they were babies. He slept so good last night after being congested all day the day before and he is sound asleep again tonight!
    No matter the reason for it working I am a true believer in it working because it always has for me. I just like the fact that they are still getting the benefits of the vapor rub without the mess and worry of it getting where it doesn’t need to be.

  120. Just applied Vicks to my 6 year old daughter’s feet and put socks on her…she went from uncontrollable coughing to sound asleep in 5 minutes. I don’t care if it is science or witchcraft – she is sleeping peacefully.

  121. I am trying it right now on my daughter. She’s had a bad cough for days. So far 25 mins in it has not worked. It’s pretty funny but if you look around it’s the exact same text being used on many different people’s blogs (exact same text as above except for the intro) I’m wondering if someone’s is hacking into blogs that have been abandoned or not used often enough for the “author” to notice

  122. i just tried this on my 14 month old daughter (using Vicks Baby Rub) because she has had a pretty rough cough for the past few nights… it has been 15 minutes now and there is no change in the level of coughing :(

    • Vicks is not safe for children under 2 yrs of age!

      Please don’t use it on your 14/15 month old daughter.

      • It’s fine to use it on under 2s – I have a pot right here in my hand and, under “Directions” it says Children and Babies (over 6 months): Apply lightly to chest and back…” so it’s fine for the 14/15 month old.

      • Your concern lies in the small amount of camphor in the product.

        Camphor is toxic in high doses, and can cause nerve hyperexcitement and breathing problems. The dose in vicks is safe for humans as long as they’re not very young or don’t go overboard with its use. For normal use, it’s fine.

    • I’m a skeptical doctor who has had a dreadful cough this past week, keeping me awake until past 3am following a recent virus. I planned to visit my own GP tomorrow and thought it’s probably time to try some antibiotics as I have a fever also. However tonight a friend gave me some Vicks, and I sneered, recalling my own mother swearing by it (and other nonsense remedies). But curiously I rubbed it in my feet and put socks on. The cough has definitely settled – not gone completely but it’s just an ‘ordinary’ cough now that doesn’t hurt – half an hour before I put it on I thought bits of my lung would come up the cough was so violent, and now it has certainly subsided. I also wiped my eye. That stings. Perhaps it distracted me from the coughing! Seriously I know this is just another anecdote, but medicine was developed from anecdotes, old wives’ tales and herbalists; for example salicylate from the willow bark, led to aspirin and all the non-steroidal anti-inflammatary pain killers. I think Angela’s site is brilliant and I love her questioning – if everyone had that discipline of critical thinking we’d be duped less by scams and by silly media exaggerating stories to sell news. Anyway I hope someone does a proper controlled trial on vaporub on feet. I know it has not cured whatever has caused my cough but it has alleviated my symptoms at least tonight while my immune system seems to be taking its time to shake this infection off.

  123. I think it is funny that such a brilliant logician like yourself has no response for the comments that challenge the logic of your own argument.

    • Actually, Joe, I am working on a thorough response. I have been doing a lot more reading on the subject and I think that a second article is in order and so I plan to deliver.

      Are there any particular points you would like me to address?

  124. OK – I’m a young mom and have just gone through a terrible bout of the flu – the one thing that has made my son stop coughing all night has been VICKS on his feet. I slather generic on pretty thick and then slap socks on him and off he goes in about 5 minutes.

    • Camphor, an ingredient in Vicks, can be misused (eg. applied heavily to the skin) and lead to an overdose. Please either don’t use it, or don’t slather it on thick! With Vicks, a little goes a LONG way.

      • Seconded. Camphor is toxic and can cause breathing and nervous problems in very high doses. The FDA does not allow more than, I think, ~11% camphor in products and camphor can’t be included unless it’s called “essential camphor oil” or something like that. It’s not common, but you can poison yourself with vicks if you keep slathering it on several times a day. The best way to use it is as a little rub under your nose for nasal decongestant, as this works better than putting it on the chest since the camphor and menthol in the medicine can get into your nasal passages and help with the swelling. Vicks is not a cough suppressant even though it is advertised as one, because neither camphor nor menthol have a cough-suppressing effect.

  125. Hey all,

    This IS an effective remedy. It as nothing to do with absorption in the sense of the medicine absorbing through the skin into some vital organ that will affect the cough, etc. It has to do with absorption through the skin but is only affective when it connects with the nerve endings. It is a neurological effect. Your hands and feet contain the nerve endings. If you put it on your hands, it will also work, but you’ll have to wear hand socks…LOL. And I wouldn’t put it on your hands and then take your contacts out for the night…ouch! :o) But believe the reports above…it does work and it is perfectly scientific…if you require such a thing.

    • Sorry Thom, I’m not quite sure I understand what you mean when you say

      “is only affective when it connects with the nerve endings. It is a neurological effect. Your hands and feet contain the nerve endings.”

      Which nerve endings are you referring to?

    • That doesn’t make much sense to me, I guess is what I’m saying. Generally when a medicine is taken by absorption, the drug absorbs through the skin and is picked up by the capillaries. I don’t see how putting a mentholated compound on your feet would do anything other than numb your feet. :) Mind explaining?

  126. hi have been coughing constantly for past 2 nights and barely slept just found this remedy and applied on feet 15 mins ago…..it works stopped coughing after 5 mins i feel nice and warm and ready to sleep at last, dont listen to mr.logical fallacies ill bet he’ll be spreading it on double thick next time hes got a cough.

  127. Hey mate, I love your site. With the abundance of misinformation regarding this subject on the web, it’s great to see some refreshing content. Keep up the good work!

  128. Honestly, If this works or not what is the harm to try it. So it may not be scientifically proven, lots of things have been scientifically proven and supposedly work according to scientists and yet they don’t but instead you could get numerous nasty side effects depending on what the drug is. As for vicks on your feet what kind of side effect are you really gonna get from that? As for Placebo effect… not exactly a valid argument when talking about children who are too young to know the difference of what is going on, yet it still works. This could very well be like regular medicine… works for some and not for others. Only way to know for sure is to try it.

    • Excessive camphor application in children has been linked with seizures in some children. So, yes, there are potential side effects.

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  130. I’ve had a cough for 2 weeks, dry and painful at night. Especially when breathing in. Went tout today, had a coughing fit so a woman told me that I need to put Vicks on my feet .. I laughed it off … So I came home and googled it – saw a few sites didn’t really read em because I was going to try it regardless – no harm, no foul. Took about ten minutes but I haven’t coughed yet. Feet are toasty warm and my chest is spasming. It works.

  131. I find this claim of 100% cure rate to in itself discredit the remedy, nothing works 100% of the time. But unless you cause an allergic reaction to the feet- it is harmless. What I find ridiculous is the lack of following common sense. Maybe it works, probably not- but let’s follow the reasoning- if garlic is rubbed on one’s foot they will eventually taste garlic. If this statement were to be accepted as accurate then it would only follow that rubbing Vicks on one’s feet would also induce the eventual tasting of the vapor rub–gross. If this were true- wouldn’t athletes taste their sweaty feet? Wouldn’t grap stompers then taste grapes? The logic doesn’t follow and the tasting part is immaterial to the argument; not that the originator really was creating a logical argument only a mass emailing that has somehow found its way printed and laying on my desk by a concerned co-worker.

    • You “reasoning” about tasting everything rubbed on the feet doesn’t hold up to reality. If you eat Asparagus your pee will smell very unusual in as little as 10 minutes. No other vegetable that I am aware of will react the same. The conclusion is that just because absorption can cause you to taste one thing doesn’t mean it will cause you to taste everything. I have had Vicks rubbed on my skin many times growing up and I don’t recall it ever resulting in a Vicks taste in my mouth.

      • I think asparagus pee is the result of a certain compound asparagus produces, some amine or another. I want to say asparagine (that literally is the name), but that doesn’t seem correct.

  132. My daughter has had a persistent cough for 3 weeks now. It has been horrible EVERY NIGHT. She was up all night coughing so bad to the point where she would gag herself. I have tried every over the counter nighttime and daytime medicine for her with ABSOLUTELY NO improvements what-so-ever. Today I learned about the Vick’s on the soles of the feet. I thought to myself “What could it hurt?” I put it on and put her socks on and NOT A PEEP IN HOURS! Despite what “research” has not concluded YET. My daughter has not made a sound in all this time is EVIDENCE ENOUGH FOR ME.
    I don’t need to wait 20-30 years for scientists to get on the ball and do all of their research. My research just proved to me first hand that yes, it does work. For some odd reason beyond my wildest dreams would I have ever thought that…it works. P.S I also rubbed Vick’s on her chest, neck, and other areas surrounding the lung. Absolutely no improvement with the coughing there, either.

  133. I think it’s interesting you didn’t reply to Woof’s comment. I’d think the same thing that you could apply it to your chest or your feet and it’s kind of irrelevant because it absorbs through the skin either way. Would you get more vapors if it’s on your chest, yes. But more absorption? Meh, probably not.

    I think your cheese argument doesn’t make sense at all. Many lotions and medications are applied through the skin, you just sound silly saying it.

    I do agree that the e-mail itself is full of fallacies.

  134. Well my mother-in-law has sang Vick’s praises for years. When my 3 year old son came down with a barking cough and the doctor said that they do not prescribe or recommend cough or cold medicines for children anymore I thought it couldn’t hurt and I gave it a try. It worked. It also worked for my 6 month old, who could not have been affected by any placebo affect. I know that the author of this article does not like tried and true “proof” because it is hearsay (unless conducted by a lab somewhere and published in a journal) but like many other people who have tried it and had success, somethings just work. Last night I drank tea with honey before bed, but still coughed for an hour and a half after laying down…frustrated I grabbed the Vicks I had put on my chest before bed and slathered it on my feet and put on socks. I was skeptical but desperate at this point. I didn’t cough one single more time all night. I woke up in amazement and went quickly to my computer to find out WHY it works. I still can’t find the answer to that question, but after last night I have all the proof I need. As for you, either try it and make up your own mind or keep googleing until you find someone else to tell you what you think.

  135. Ok, so I woke up in the middle of the night to my son coughing…a lot. Came downstairs, typed in “ways to stop a cough” and this idea of putting vicks on the soles of their feet showed up. I figured I had nothing to lose, so I tried it…Vicks + socks and back to bed. Sure enough, after about 5 minutes, the coughing stopped and he slept the rest of the night and didn’t cough once. I’m not convinced that was it, but I got a decent night’s sleep after doing it!

  136. I will give this a shot tomorrow when I pick some up. Been coughing for two days now after my girlfriend got me sick. Been using the cayenne pepper gargle method for keeping my throat clear of phlegm (it usually gets super bad in the morning, using that right now has kept my throat relatively clear) Cough is getting more and more persistent though so I’m willing to give this a shot. At the very least, I will end up using it on the neck…

  137. It can’t POSSIBLY work. A Dr. didn’t write it on a prescription pad and get a kickback from a drug company.
    What is wrong with you people thinking you can get better not using the wonderful meds that modern science has given us!?!
    Sorry….my rant. I’ll have to remember this next time I have a cough. I have used the warm foot soak followed by cold socks covered with wool socks to open sinus passages, so acutally would believe this would work!
    Thanks for sharing your stories.

  138. Two nights is a row now , 5 minutes after putting vicks on, cough dissapated and he slept soundly the whole night. Dunno why but it worked

  139. Thanks Andrew, but unfortunately your annecdote does not carry any weight and cannot be considered as evidence for the efficacy of putting Vicks on your feet to treat a cough.

  140. Ummmmm……..ok, I am a very big skeptic when it comes to these home remidies and such but my four year old has been coughing for the last hour, dry hacking. My wife said she was going to do this vicks thing and I just rolled my eyes at her and laughed. That was 15 minutes ago. No cough. She just said …ahem!

  141. OK, my daughter has coughed for the last 3 nights… I am trying tonight… only way to prove this to work or not work, is to try it.

  142. No scietist here. But I am skeptical as I get older. I hurt my back about 8 years ago. Had a lot of lower back pain and inflamation as I tore ligaments from mu sacral joint.
    Anyway more to the point. A good freind of mine who is a chiropractor told me to cut two liquid advils in half and massage the oil into the inflamed area.
    Instant releif that lasts many hours. My wife and I use this trick on any kind of sore joints or muscles and I have told dozens of people about it. There has been 100 percent success with those who try it. You can actualy feel the pain disolve away before you finished rubbing it into your skin.
    So bottom line is yes medicines can be quikly absorbed through the skin.

  143. I know I’m hitting this rather late, but while the email chain itself is a logical fallacy with horrid arguments (of course the scientists would know why it works), the usage of Vicks in this fashion is totally sound science.

    Camphor, which is a mild anesthetic, counterirritant, and expectorant (and other words – look in various medical dictionaries), is a major component of Vicks Vaporub. The reason why it is applied on the skin is because it is poisonous when ingested (http://jcp.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/47/5/653). Skin application has relatively low absorption (http://jcp.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/44/10/1151 and others) but the amount retained in plasma is still effective, so to all intents and purposes, it doesn’t matter *where* you apply it on your body – it will still work. (I submit to the prosecution the note that Vicks recommends application to “sore, aching muscles.”)

    The point of putting it on your feet at night is that the skin on the soles of the feet is somewhat thicker, at ~1.5mm versus ~0.9 on the rest of the body (let me know if you want refs for that). Delivery of the ketones therefore takes slightly longer, as it works its way through the skin. In this manner the effects of the camphor last over a longer period of time than it would on the chest. Also, with socks on, the petrolatum carrier of the camphor doesn’t rub off the skin as quickly as it would on the hands or chest, as people move throughout the night and very few ppl wear close-necked pajamas. ;)

    The reason why Vicks recommends chest application for cold relief is for the vapors to hit and clear the sinuses. If coughing is more of an issue than the sinus, those vapors won’t get to the bronchial tubes in any decent dosage – it’s all skin absorption at that point. (Which reminds me: to one of the other commenters, inflamed bronchial passages are one of the main reasons for coughing at night, not the epiglottis-let me know if you want refs for that one too)

    Having relief that lasts through the night, or having a diabetic-friendly option for relief that can be used in the workplace (many diabetics can’t take cold medicines), is a fairly compelling reason to pass this around.

    In terms of anecdotal evidence vs scientific, it is worthy to note that Vicks contains “inactive ingredients” that have no scientifically-tested application to cough or sinus problems. (that is, in the US.) Cedarleaf and nutmeg oil would be cheaper to include as a synthetic, if they use them as a fragrance. ;) But both oils also have a significant terpene component, so it wouldn’t surprise me if, in the future, you see some studies about these oils coming out.

    I know it’s aggravating when people don’t know the science behind something and therefore can’t explain it, but just because they don’t know it and they cover their lack of knowledge with poor arguments doesn’t mean it is not there.

  144. I’m a skeptic myself, so I don’t necessarily buy the idea that this remedy works. I plan to try it when I have occasion to do so (seems to me that, if I try it on either my 2-, 3-, or 5-year-old without telling them what it’s for, the placebo effect wouldn’t be a plausible explanation for a positive result), but knowing full well that it may prove useless.

    However, I take issue with the stance that many would-be skeptics seem to take with regards to, “alternative” treatments. They claim they’ll believe it when science proves it, but in the meantime they continue to buy into whatever traditional knowledge science has supposedly discovered with regards to a particular health issue. They decry anecdotal evidence, deeming it, “unscientific,” when in fact, when tested in the right conditions some so-called anecdotal evidence may be just as accurate as a scientific study. But they seem to accept, “scientific” evidence at face value, without studying to see if the science behind it is faulty. Sometimes I find that the broad claims I see published in relation to supposedly-scientific studies are in reality a huge stretch to make from the actual findings of the given study (one example: http://dcscience.net/?p=209). Of course, in the case of that example the conclusion actually seems biased in favor of the natural remedy, so I’m not claiming a widespread conspiracy against alternative remedies here, or anything (Vick’s isn’t exactly a, “natural” remedy, anyway). Just that sometimes it’s necessary to dig deeper than the headlines, even of reputable sources, to see if a finding is truly scientific in its nature. That, to me, is true skepticism. :o)

  145. I have a daughter that has a skin allergy to almost everything. When she had a cold/cough, we tried the humidifier and it did not help. We tried Vicks on her chest and it made her break out. I had heard about putting Vicks on the feet and it would work, so I tried it on her feet. She did not break out and her cough stopped within hours. I have also tried it on myself when I was sick. It has worked for my whole family and many friends. It may not work for everyone but what’s the hurt in trying it for yourself? I like that I don’t have the “Vaseline” feel on my chest in the morning and it also helps make your feet soft. They aren’t telling you to eat the Vicks… just put it on your feet instead of your chest. We put many different medicines in our bodies that “don’t work” and no one has a problem with that but to try a home remedy that will not give you a side effect or complications makes people nervous.

  146. to all you skeptics try it before you open youre preverbial fatt mouths… I was once like you but not now ,it worked for me and I have neummonia sorry for the mispellings take care

  147. Generally, Vicks Vaporub on the sole feet wll work. Unless
    the condition require antibiotics. I have try it on myself and
    experiment on many others. It works. It follow the same principle as foot reflexology. We have thousands of acu-points on our feet and that is the way how the”Chi” flows.

  148. I don’t see why it’s so impossible to conceive of a mechanism whereby the substances in the Vaporub absorb through the soles into the bloodstream, then are passed through the lungs, and on exhale provide relief.
    If that were the mechanism, then I would expect application on the palms to have the same effect.

    • Ender, it’s been proven several times that chemical patches, gels, and other topical treatments work, otherwise they would not be in use now. You sound like a fool.

      He is stating true facts. He is not paranoid, and whether or not the patches are applied to the feet is a moot point, seeing as they are approved for anywhere on the human body. Or is the FDA, Ender, myself, and every pharmacologist and biologist who tested how these patches work also “paranoid”?

      Are you a troll?

  149. Ender, the patches work anywhere. I think my feet would be one of the last places I’d put it. There is a gel you can rub on your hands for nicotine. As for remedies that don’t cost much, the pharmacy would have a fit. Hell if someone killed the rhino virus with a cheap product they would probably be paid not to tell.

  150. “Am I being tricked into thinking that I am not having a nicotene fit?”

    Try your patches on your feet for a week. See how that works.

  151. And one other thing; to the person that stated “yes, it probably works for some people but for all of the wrong reasons”. What the …. does that mean? If it works and does no harm then what are the wrong reasons? If you break your arm, do you have to have scientific evidence to prove that it hurts? To hell with the scientific evidence, I’m sick. I didnt wait for the scientific analysis, I tried it and it helped me. I have my proof. Case closed.

  152. As I sit here, I am dealing with what seems like the worst case of bronchitis ever known to man. I have tried the Vaporub remedy for the past four nights. It actually has worked 3 of the 4 times that I used it. Maybe not 100% but not bad results. As for the skin being a “virtually impermeable” barrier, I have a nicotene patch on my right butt cheek that says you are wrong. There are many topical treatments for a multitude of medical problems. Are they placebos as well? Am I being tricked into thinking that I am not having a nicotene fit? Perhaps it is a placebo effect. Who cares, if it helps you to sleep. And by the way, it actually feels good. Not nasty at all

  153. Of course, that depends on what you mean by ‘works’. If you mean “I feel better”, then you’re absolutely right.

    This could be caused by confirmation bias, psychosomatic mechanisms or very very unlikely actual mechanisms.
    But if you mean “actually stops you coughing”, well that’s not true in the first case – and unless you’ve performed some sort of study and measurement on your experiences, with statistical analysis – then there’s no way of knowing.

  154. Andrew, When ever I have a cough or cold the Vicks on the bottom of my soles has worked for me. I don’t know how it works or why it works but you know what I really don’t care as long as it works. People that I have shared this with have tied it and it has also worked for them. I am not trying to persuade you all I am saying is that this worked for me.
    Michael

  155. Vicks Vapo Rub on your feet doesn’t work.

    If it did for anyone, I’d also suggest you rub some on your butt and see if that prevents you from peeing!

  156. Did it work Andrew?

    Even if it did, and I’d be doubtful that smearing Vicks on your feet helped your cough, I would be inclined not to recommend that other people try it until there was some kind of evidence that it worked.

    You know, that pesky body of data which scientists are always referring to. I think that is why I will always be a sceptic, I demand proof and evidence of a claim before I am willing to accept it.

    SD

  157. Hi there, this interesting tip was given to me by a close friend haven’t tried it yet, but he swears by it, I have a cold however and am going to try it tonight, having heard the argument for and against. I am trying to understand the analysis you have put these claims to and feel a bit of common sense would go a long way here, why not try it yourself then you can share your experience, rather than you opinion on experience you haven’t had.

  158. Two words: Placebo Effect. The cough reflex is triggered by all kinds of physical irritants in the respiratory tracts, but can also be caused by purely psychological reasons, like a nervous cough before public speaking. Even stimulation of some nerves in the ear can cause involuntary coughing. If you carefully stick a Q-tip deep into your ear and gently wriggle it around, chances are that you will feel a strange tickle in your throat at some point.

    When you combine the trust of a household name like Vicks with blind faith in anecdotal email ‘evidence’ and the fact that coughing can be triggered (or suppressed) by the brain and nervous system, you end up with a very strong case for plain, garden-variety placebo effect.

    So yes, it probably works for some people, but for all the wrong reasons ;-)

    • You’re neglecting that there are other drugs that absorb through the skin, and that menthol is one of them. It’s immediately noticeable that when you apply vicks, your skin feels cold. That is menthol numbing the nerve endings in and around that area of skin. It’s widely known that menthol is a mild anesthetic and can resolve mild pain. It, like benzocaine and other pain killers, can absorb through skin, including the skin on your feet. Can it suppress a cough this way? Likely not, because menthol has no cough-suppressing effect. What is more likely is that, for those this trick worked for, that the menthol was absorbed into the bloodstream and found its way into the lungs, where it reduced swelling there. Bronchiole swelling, as those of us with asthma know, is a common cause of coughing. Menthol does not get rid of mucus, however. Vicks in general is best used under the nose as an anti-congestion medicine, as the fumes from the camphor and menthol will help reduce swelling in the nasal passages, which in turn allows mucus to flow better without getting blocked up.

      • Hi LaughingFish,
        I have read through all your comments, and would like to thank you for posting them. It is always a pleasure to have someone engage with the topic in an intelligent manner, and I appreciare the knowledge you have contributed.

        • I agree that the article being cited sounds ignorant and misinformed, and clearly under-researched. However, when I smear Vicks on my child’s feet while she’s fast asleep (as have so many others based on these comments) and her bad, very peristent cough suddenly stops (as has been the case with so many others based on these comments), you honestly believe this to be the placebo effect… on her subconscious mind?? Why can’t some people just acknowledge that they don’t know everything about everything? I don’t even begin to claim I understand why this works, and I’d bet it doesn’t work for everybody everytime. But it works for plenty of people who don’t really care why it works or need scientific evidence either way. Is there any denying that seeing someone else yawn often elicits a yawn? There is no proof as to why this often happens, but few would deny that it does. And the bottom line, I believe, is that is it really worth worrying about, and especially arguing and debating over, such trivial matters?

  159. So my sister in law was praising this last year (she was ahead of the game, I guess) and I expressed scepticism (and was thoroughly attacked for it).
    The only thing I can possibly think of that would allow this to work would be the effect of vasodilation. However, since you are applying it to your FEET, there may be a very slight increase of blood flow to your feet. I am unsure how this could possibly affect your epiglottis or trachea (air tube). The epiglottis is the little flap between your trachea and your esophagus (tube to stomach). When it or the trachea is irritated (as in covered in phlegm or food) it trigers the cough reflex to clear your lungs or to keep objects out of them. Perhaps it does work(the human body s freakish) but I would not take it to work reliably without double-blind testing. A little warm lemon water with honey in it is not only cheaper, but tastier :)

  160. Chem major here: Dimethyl sulfoxide is readily absorbed through the skin, and there seems to be at least a widespread belief or consensus that touching it can cause one to taste a garlicky flavor, though I haven’t spilled it on myself so far so I don’t know personally. I wouldn’t completely discount the possibility of garlic doing the same thing, since it contains related compounds, even though it would be inconvenient to test due to concerns mentioned in #6. This isn’t to say that I think that it’s likely, or that it’s relevent to the ability of unrelated substances to penetrate the skin, or that feet are a sensible place to apply such a treatment.

  161. Garlic is also secreted in the sweat. This makes the tasting garlic idea a little more feasible. However, the sense of smell is an important part of taste. Maybe they could smell their feet covered in garlic which translated over to taste. Think about it. Anyway, at least you’d be safe from vampires.

  162. As far as “tasting” garlic that has been absorbed into the skin goes, if you use a clove of garlic rectally or vaginally you will find that you do start to exude garlic smell after a while. (This is a popular “folk” remedy for yeast infections that I tried one desperate night when the apothecary was closed. My husband made me sleep in another room.)

    The sulfurous “garlic breath” odor mostly comes from the lungs and occurs after certain compounds in the garlic are absorbed into the bloodstream. Brushing your teeth after eating garlic or onions won’t cure your breath. Source (includes references so a journal article): http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,756476,00.html

    Since I was taught that smell is a large component of taste, what the original e-mail may be saying is that you will get garlic breath so bad you can practically “taste” it. That did indeed happen to me during my unfortunate night with a garlic pessary. The odor was overwhelming.

    I imagine somebody read the same sort of things I did about garlic/onions and came to the idea that perhaps Vap-o-rub could also directly enter the bloodstream and then be exhaled through the lungs (presumably providing relief). One problem is that the soles of the feet are quite different than the mucous membranes of the digestive system/respiratory system/rectum/vagina. (You probably don’t want to put Vap-o-rub on any mucous membranes.)

    Self-experimenting is a fine tradition that can lead to a nice hypothesis. The hypothesis can then lead to proper scientific studies. It sounds like this idea is in the hypothesis stage. I’ll give it a try just because I’m interested and also chest congestion, but I’m not going to consider my anecdotal evidence as anything other than an interesting self-experiment.

    Cheers!

  163. “Sorry to be the wet blanket skeptic here, but your comment is a prime example of anecdotal evidence, a kind of evidence which is rather useless in the scientific / sceptical worldview unless it is able to point us in the direction of research which provides testable results.

    I’m sure you can understand why it is not an opinion changer in this case, or any other.”

    Although of course to her, successful application is the only evidence she needs, and she should keep doing it until it stops working, whether there’s statistical evidence for it or not.

    That said, the e-mail’s complete nonsense, even if your feet did absorb garlic, why would you taste it? That would indicate that you’ve either got tastebuds elsewhere in your body than your tongue, or that it’s been secreted into your saliva. Are we then to expect that if we take garlic per rectal, that we’ll soon taste it? Clearly silly. And I’d be very surprised if they found Vick’s on feet did anything other than give you sticky feet.

  164. Great post.

    I personally encountered this email a while ago and sadly a family member condoned, as well as supported this garbage without second thought.

    I took her up on it, based on the idea that “if you had to apply Vicks on your feet soles – why not just apply it directly to the problem area?” – needless to say I got no response to this inquiry.

    I would like to also point out the following lines at the end of the original mail: “If you have grandchildren, pass this on. If you end up sick, try it yourself and you will be absolutely amazed at how it works!”

    I believe spam artists employ something like an “appeal to your better nature” or “sympathy vote” here to get you to pass it on. I am of the firm opinion that if the information in the email was of such great consequence people would pass it on of their own volition.

  165. Hey Cheryl
    Sorry to be the wet blanket skeptic here, but your comment is a prime example of anecdotal evidence, a kind of evidence which is rather useless in the scientific / sceptical worldview unless it is able to point us in the direction of research which provides testable results.

    I’m sure you can understand why it is not an opinion changer in this case, or any other.

    SD

    • My daughter has had a persistent cough for 3 weeks now. It has been horrible EVERY NIGHT. She was up all night coughing so bad to the point where she would gag herself. I have tried every over the counter nighttime and daytime medicine for her with ABSOLUTELY NO improvements what-so-ever. Today I learned about the Vick’s on the soles of the feet. I thought to myself “What could it hurt?” I put it on and put her socks on and NOT A PEEP IN HOURS! Despite what “research” has not concluded YET. My daughter has not made a sound in all this time is EVIDENCE ENOUGH FOR ME.
      I don’t need to wait 20-30 years for scientists to get on the ball and do all of their research. My research just proved to me first hand that yes, it does work. For some odd reason beyond my wildest dreams would I have ever thought that…it works. P.S I also rubbed Vick’s on her chest, neck, and other areas surrounding the lung. Absolutely no improvement with the coughing there, either.

      • Hi
        I read this today and i could`nt believe it also. My son has had a cough for 2 weeks and like all of the population i have tryed all the over the counter medicines but nothing has worked. So i tryed this witch doctors remedy. And i counld`nt care less if this is a joke or a wind up because for my son it has worked. For the first time in almost 2 weeks he slept for 5 hrs without a sound.

      • Has anyone tried simply putting the kids to bed with vaseline and socks? Try that before you try the Vicks …. maybe it is not the Vicks that is helping, it’s retaining the heat in the body

  166. Since we read the email about the Vicks on the feet, any of us that have tried it, had it work. So, research, or no research, tried and true it works. And even tho anythying I have read about it since the email says its not true or has not been proven, it works.

  167. I do not know if this VapoRub on the feet business has any merit, but here is some info on skin absorption:

    Department of Pharmaceutical Technology, Medical University of Gdańsk, Gdańsk, Poland
    Med Sci Monit, 2008; 14(8): PI19-23

    “When analyzing the results of the skin penetration of terpenes from the Vicks VapoRub® drug product, higher terpenes absorption into the skin layers than expected based on previous studies was found. This confirms that many factors influence their penetration and it is therefore difficult to foresee. Terpenes are well-known penetration enhancers [19–21], so their mutual penetration enhancement may appear. The short time in which saturation of the SC with terpenes occurs and the high accumulation of most of the investigated terpenes in the skin layers prove that these compounds easily penetrate and permeate the SC and that in vivo they may easily penetrate into the blood circulation.”

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