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Vapor Rub Ointment Can Ease Cold Symptoms in Children


In a study funded by an unrestricted research grant from Procter and Gamble, researchers found a vapor rub combination of camphor, menthol and eucalyptus oils can relieve symptoms and improve sleep in children with upper respiratory infections.

The study, “Vapor Rub, Petrolatum, and No Treatment for Children With Nocturnal Cough and Cold Symptoms,” in the December issue of Pediatrics (published online Nov. 8), sought to examine the use of topical preparations to relieve cold symptoms in children, particularly after recent studies and guidelines have questioned the efficacy of other over-the-counter cold medications. For the study, 138 children ages 2-11 years suffering colds were divided into three treatment groups: Vicks VapoRub, petroleum jelly, and no treatment. Parents were surveyed about their child’s cough, congestion, runny nose and sleep after one night of treatment. Children in all three groups improved, but parents who had used the vapor rub reported greater improvement than the other two treatment groups for all symptom categories except rhinorrhea (runny nose). Twenty of the 44 parents in the vapor rub group reported at least one mild adverse event, such as skin irritation; no parents in the other two groups reported side effects.


The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit