Around Town: Vicks VapoRub & Your Cough

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A few years ago, Garrison Keillor devoted an entire “News from Lake Wobegon” monologue to Vicks VapoRub. He recalled his mother rubbing Vicks on his chest when he had a cold and wrapping him in flannel, and how it made things seem so much better. The memories of the smell of Vicks VapoRub were among his happiest.

“I supposed we shouldn’t be talking about a commercial product on our broadcast,” I remember him saying.

But Vicks VapoRub, he said, wasn’t really a commercial product…like Milk of Magnesia, it was a part of the family, not just something you purchased at the drug store.

A cousin of mine recently sent an e-mail message to me which extolled the virtues of a new discovery: putting Vicks on your feet to stop a cough.

The message said, in part:

“But I’ve never heard of this. And don’t laugh, it works 100% of the time although the scientists at the Canada Research council (who discovered it) aren’t sure why. 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. I heard the head of the Canada Research Council describe these findings on the part of their scientists when they were investigating the effectiveness and usage of prescription cough medicines in children as compared to alternative therapies like acupressure.”

I’m a Vicks fan and invariably end up with a sinus infection or two every year, and cough medicines don’t do much for me. So I was excited to read this. I passed it on to my wife, who checked it out on snopes.com, the urban-legends-busting website. Snopes has classified these claims about Vicks as “undetermined. You can read more about it here .

Essentially, that National Research Council of Canada disavows any claims attributed to it, but adds, in so many words, “try it – it might work for you.” With cough and cold season coming up, especially with this week’s temperatures dipping into the 30s, it’s time to make sure you have Vicks on hand.

And if you’re coughing, on your feet as well.

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