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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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".