Along with all the awesome new reading and counting and art
skills that five year old C has been bringing home to share with her parents and sibs since she started kindergarten a few weeks ago, she is also bringing home one other NOT so awesome thing from school, namely, GERMS…the kind that make people sick.
Even though I’ve already been thru the trial-by-germs kindergarten initiation rite back when my three oldest were C’s age, frankly I’d just plain forgotten how many more nasty little illnesses are likely to attack one’s household once you have a young child enrolled in elementary school. Even though teachers do their very best to keep little hands washed and sneezes appropriately contained, kindergarten classrooms in particular seem to be teeming cesspools of sore throats, chest congestion and projectile vomiting just waiting to happen.
Since C started kindergarten at the end of August, we’ve already had one tummy bug stowaway make it to Casa Hickju via her pink kitten backpack. And now, the Mother of All Colds seems to have hopped into her Disney princess lunchbox like some kind of hobo with a bad attitude, and the mean-tempered virus has arrogantly taken up residence at our house. The two teenagers in the fam are not here this week, so they’ve been spared (I hope), but the other four of us haven’t been so lucky.
The nasty cold started on Sunday when both of the little girls developed non-stop runny noses. Then it hit Jon with a cough, sore throat and congestion. As of late Tuesday, I became yet another unwilling host for the virus, and I currently have a remarkably unpleasant case of classic head cold. My eyes are swollen and runny, my throat is sore, I’m headachey, and worst of all, my nose and sinuses are stuffed up to such a degree that I only managed 2-3 hours of sleep Tuesday night. My ears hurt from all the sinus pressure too.
And then, starting in the afternoon earlier today when she was in Jon’s mom’s care while I was at work, two year old G’s runny nose has morphed into full-on sickly. It’s now 11;30 pm and she’s been vomiting all evening as the result of the constant coughing combined with all the icky drainage from her cold. She feels awful.
Back when my three oldest children were little, there were many OTC meds available to give young children and even babies to treat cold symptoms.My standby was benadryl, which both dried out their heads and chests, and also helped them sleep. But starting in about 2007, doctors and the FDA began advising parents that no over the counter product advertised to treat cold symptoms was actually effective in children under six, plus there were possible safety issues. My own beloved pediatrician (he’s cared for all five of my children since 1993) agrees with this assessment and no longer recommends any OTC meds to treat cold symptoms like cough, runny nose or chest congestion for his young patients, and instead advises steam showers and similarly simple home remedies for cold relief.
I get why we’re no longer supposed to dose our sniffly, coughing toddlers with benadryl or with that thick grape-flavored cough syrup that used to be a staple of parental medicine cabinets (was that Dimetapp?), but it’s tough knowing that your little one feels so awful and there isn’t much of anything that’s considered safe or effective to help her feel better.
But there is still one OTC product that’s considered totally safe for children C’s age (used properly), and I am here to tell you that it’s VERY effective. Sure, it’s old fashioned and has maybe fallen off of our parental radar in recent years, but this retro remedy deserves revisiting.
What is it?
I used to use Vapor Rub all the time when one of the kids or I got a head or chest cold that was making it impossible for us to sleep, and it offered nighttime relief for even the worst stuffy noses and chests better than just about anything else. But at some point along the way – I’m not sure why – I kind of forgot how great the stuff is. However, after finding an old dried out jar of Vapor Rub in a box of stuff in my closet (don’t ask) a while back, my memory of its effectiveness was prodded, and the last few times I’ve had any sort of congestion or cough myself, or one of the kids has, I’ve whipped out my trusty (new, freshly acquired, not crusty or dried out!) jar o’ Vapor Rub.
Tonight, after her older sister C was already snoozing away for the evening, G was still coughing so much that she couldn’t sleep, so I dispatched Jon to the Diane Arbus Walgreen’s in our neighborhood for several items, including a fresh jar of Vick’s. While he was gone, and as I was rocking a restless, whimpering, coughing G in our darkened bedroom, I found myself wondering whether other parents are still using Vick’s, so I googled the product on my iPhone. And I am sure glad I did, because my quick search turned up a different way to use Vick’s Vapor Rub to treat cold symptoms and cough that I’d never heard before: rubbing it on your child’s feet (or your own), and then covering the freshly slathered tootsies with cotton socks.
Okay, this sounds nuts, right? TVapor Rub on FEET?! But according to many, many, many anecdotal reports from people all over the Web, applying Vapor Rub to the feet very reliably quells a cough, even in little kids. Because this implausible-sounding home remedy has in the past been the subject of one of those annoying, Snopes-worthy forwarded emails, some people apparently discount it. But it looks to me like that email was just a red herring, and that many people find that applying Vick’s to the soles of the feet is a very reliable cough suppressant, particularly overnight.
I generally apply Vick’s to my chest and just under my nose when I am stuffy and trying to sleep, and to my kids’ upper backs and lower chest when they have cold symptoms (important: never put Vick’s Vapor Rub right under the nose of a baby or young child like you might do for yourself. ), but after stumbling onto the Vick’s-on-feet cough suppressant claims, I decided to give it a try for my miserable little danger toddler.
So when Jon got home from the store earlier, I opened up the jar of Vapor Rub and told G that I was going to rub her feet with it (all my children loooooove having me rub their feet). I slathered her little feet and toes up with Vick’s, and then put her in fresh socks. At the time the Vapor Rub went on her feet, she was coughing and coughing, and vomiting every hour or so from the coughing. I hoped that this wacky thing would help, but wasn’t terribly hopeful because it sounds so unlikely. But I turned the light back off, settled my now minty-smelling babygirl back into my lap in the rocking chair, and began trying to rock her to sleep – something I’d been unable to do for hours due to the coughing.
Within 5 minutes, she stopped coughing and fell fast asleep. She then slept all night snuggled up with me in bed with NO coughing and thus, NO throwing up.
Yep. The Vapor Rub on the feet home remedy worked, even though I have no clue WHY it would work (kind of like how bars of soap under my sheets do indeed mysteriously make my restless legs problem disappear at night). I’ve always known that Vapor Rub is great for clearing stuffy heads and chests in both kids and adults, but I had no clue it could work as well as any liquid cough syrup I have ever tried.
So now I love Vick’s Vapor Rub even more than I already did. This stuff is magic in a little plastic tub. They also make a baby version of Vapor Rub, but I’ve never tried it (if you have, chime in and let me know whether it works as well as the regular variety)
Oh, and one other thing I use Vick’s for: softening up my dry, calloused feet after I’ve gone barefoot too much and haven’t made time to get a pedicure. I can rub it all over my feet at bedtime, cover up with cotton socks, and my feet are way less Shrek-like in the morning. So now, if I eer have a cough, I know that I can both quiet my hacking and pretty-up my feet at the same time.
To be clear, I am not claiming any definitive, scientific evidence that the Vicks-on-feet home cough remedy works. As far as I know, neither is Vick’s. All I can tell you is that it worked for us, and now I will rely on this useful little medicine cabinet staple even more than I already did.
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