In a comparison study of vapor rub, petroleum, or no treatment, the vapor rub proved to be more effective in relieving symptoms of congestion and making it easier for kids and their parents to sleep soundly.
Lead researcher Ian M. Paul, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Public Health Science at Penn State College of Medicine, Pennsylvania and colleagues conducted a randomized controlled trial to determine if one application of either a vapor rub (VR) or petroleum jelly is superior to no treatment at all for nocturnal cough, congestion, and difficulty in sleep for children aged 2 to 11 years with upper respiratory infection (URI).
AdvertisementDr. Paul and his colleagues assigned 138 children with Upper Respiratory Infection to one of the three groups: The vapor rub group used Vicks, the petroleum jelly group used Equate (100% pure white petroleum jelly), and the third group received no treatment at all.
On the night of treatment, parents were asked to apply the products 30 minutes before their children's bedtimes. In order to mask the distinctive odor of VR and preserve blinding, prior to rubbing the treatment ointment on their child, parents in the VR and petroleum jelly groups applied Vicks to their own upper lips.
The next day parents reported on their child's cough (duration, frequency, and severity), congestion, their own and child's ability to sleep without disturbance by kids' coughing and other symptoms.
Parents rated the severity of the symptoms in their child using 7-point Likert scales: frequency and severity of cough, running nose, nasal congestion, and the impact of cough and cold symptoms on both child and parent's sleep.
Compared to those in the petroleum and no treatment group, children randomized to vapor rub reported significant improvement in cough severity and frequency, congestion, and child and parent's sleep. There was no notable improvement for any outcome among petrolatum and no treatment groups.
The author concludes that, "Despite mild irritant adverse effects, vapor rub provided symptomatic relief for children with upper respiratory infection and allowed them and their parents to have a more comfortable night's sleep".