The smell of Vicks VapoRub is unmistakable. Mentholated and penetrating, this essence has been trapped in the minds of many generations. The ointment has earned its name as a “lifetime” product: the Vicks brand has just turned 125 years old. A century and a quarter of another helping to fall asleep when the throat itches, the nose is stuffy and coughing is inevitable.
Although Vicks VapoRub is available without a prescription and does not interact with other drugs, it is considered a drug. The Vicks company has received the press at its Gross-Gerau plant in Frankfurt, Germany, where it explained that the sense of relief provided by this ointment comes, among other things, from menthol. According to the Queen’s University of Belfast, in the United Kingdom, this mint derivative interacts with some receptors responsible for making you feel like you have a cold. These are mainly found in the airways.
In addition, the formula contains essential oils of eucalyptus and turpentine and camphor, substances that have also been shown to be effective in the treatment of coughs and nasal congestion.
Sleep, congestion, and cough
Temperature changes in recent weeks may have led many people to open one of these jars. What is certain is that we are approaching the cold and flu season and that, therefore, we will have to live in some moments with its unpleasant symptoms. Vicks’ symptom perception surveys conclude that colds are especially uncomfortable when it comes to working and also when it comes to sleep. However, sleep is one of the most important aspects to take care of during a cold.
“Sleep is vital for health, but we only do it when we don’t feel threats,” explains Neil Stanley, a doctor, and author of the book How to Sleep Well. “Even if it doesn’t seem like it, our body considers the common cold a threat. He’s afraid of running out of oxygen if his nose is stuffy or of dying if he doesn’t cough. That’s why it’s so hard to sleep when you have a cold.
For Stanley, the relationship between a good night’s sleep and successful recovery from one of these colds is clear. According to him, lack of sleep causes the body to produce fewer cytokines. The role of these agents is especially important when the body is dealing with an infection. Therefore, it is important that during a cold or flu we sleep the recommended daily hours. That is, adults should sleep between 7 and 9 hours.
How to Sleep a Cold
Vicks also conducted a survey of 150 German doctors. Of all of them, 93% agreed that getting enough sleep at the right time speeds recovery for patients with a cold or flu. But sleep also helps prevent such infections. Carnegie Mellon University, in the state of Pennsylvania in the United States, carried out a study in which it observed the sleeping habits of a group of people and observed which of them became sickest when one of the viruses that cause the common cold became contagious.
People who had slept less than 7 hours a day proved to be three times more likely to have one of these infections. “People who have colds sleep, on average, 23 minutes less than those who are not. It seems like a short time, but there are so many of them, the next day you can see it,” Stanley says. In this sense, the sleep expert warns that people who sleep less than 5 hours a day are 45.2% more likely to catch a cold than the rest.
The specialized journal Open Journal of Respiratory Diseases published in 2017 a study carried out by the University of Surrey, United Kingdom, in which the effectiveness of this famous ointment at the time of falling asleep was proved. The participants were divided into two groups: those who received Vicks VapoRub and those who tried a placebo. The study authors observed that those who received the authentic formula showed a 58% improvement in sleep quality over those who took a placebo. In addition, this same group reported a 75% improvement in their ability to wake up renewed the next morning.