Washington: Penn State College of Medicine researchers have concluded that applying a vapor rub is effective for treating children with night-time cough and congestion and improves sleep for children with cold symptoms.
Recent studies by Paul and colleagues at the Penn State College of Medicine looked at the efficacy of oral over-the-counter treatments such as dextromethorphan and diphenhydramine for upper respiratory infection symptoms.
Vapor rubs, containing menthol, camphor and eucalyptus oils, have been used for over a century without published evidence to support their use.
"The American Academy of Pediatrics does not support the use of over-the-counter oral cough and cold medications for children due to a lack of evidence of efficacy and the potential for side effects," said Ian Paul, associate professor of pediatrics and public health sciences.
"The question of whether clinicians can recommend a vapor rub topical treatment to treat cold symptoms required evaluation."
Paul and his research team recruited 138 children ages 2 to 11 for the study. Parents assessed their child`s symptoms the night before enrollment in the study.
Parents then completed a second survey the following morning assessing their child`s cough, sleep, congestion and runny nose.
In comparisons across the three treatment groups, parents reported that the vapor rub provided significantly greater relief as measured by cough frequency, cough severity, congestion and the child`s ability to sleep.
Parents also rated their own sleep as most improved in the vapor rub group when compared across the three study groups. Paired comparisons between the vapor rub group and the no treatment group demonstrated the superiority of the vapor rub for all study outcomes except runny nose. Paired comparison of the vapor rub group to the petroleum jelly group showed vapor rub improved child`s sleep, parent`s sleep and the combined symptom score. The petroleum jelly placebo was not significantly better than no-treatment for any study outcome.
“The results of this study suggest that an old, commonly used remedy is effective at providing symptomatic relief from night-time cold symptoms with the added benefit of improving sleep for children with colds and their parents," Paul said.
"Vapor rubs have been used for generations, but this study demonstrates that this therapy is indeed effective."
The research results will appear in the December issue of Pediatrics.