5 FAQ about vapor rub answered

All your questions on vapor rub answered here.

During the winter season, reaching out for a vapor rub for instant relief from nasal congestion, sore throat and cough is normal. But ever wondered how this basic element works?

#1 What are vapor rubs made up of?

Synthetic vapor rubs or ones that are sold over-the-counter are made up of certain chemicals like menthol, camphor, among others that promise instant relief from cold, congestion and sore throat. These are topical ointments that are to be used externally and could be fatal if swallowed, mainly due to its chemical compositions. This is one of the many reasons why they come with a caution to be kept away from children s reach. Here is how you can get instant relief from cough with ginger!

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#2 What is the best way to use a synthetic vapor rub?

A synthetic vapor rub can be used in the following ways:

a. Apply a pinch of vapor rub on your nose, chest and back, and leave it for a few minutes. Give it some time before the vapours start to do their work. The effects starts to show within a few minutes of application, depending on your condition and extent of the congestion. You might have to reapply the vapor rub a couple of times to get relief. However, make sure that you don t apply it too close to your nostrils, but rather on the upper area of your nose. This is because the chemicals present in the vapor rub if inhaled through the mucous membranes can be toxic. Want instant relief from cough? Try these remedies.

b. Another effective way to use synthetic vapor rub is to put two spoonfuls of it in a vessel containing warm water. Remember the water shouldn t be boiling hot. Once the vapor rub dissolves in the water, inhaling the vapours provides instant relief. Repeat the entire process three to four times a day to get relief from cold and congestion. Change the contents of the water each time you use it.

c. You can also get relief from dry cough by using a vapor rub as a rub-on-massage. Rub it on your chest and back before going to sleep and on areas where you have muscular pain due to cold. This will give you instant relief and probably a good night s sleep.

#3 How does a synthetic vapor rub work?

The popular belief is that a synthetic vapor rub when used topically, its vapours work its way through the nasal cavity to provide relief from congestion, restoring normal breathing. However, many experts believe that vapor rubs provide temporary relief and don't help much in clearing congestion. In fact, the menthol in the vapour rub tricks the brain in a certain way to make one feel lighter and the nose unclogged. The effectiveness of a synthetic vapor rub as a decongestant is limited. Read to know if nasal decongestant are really helpful.

#4 What precautions should one take while using a synthetic vapor rub?

Here are a few precautions you need to take while using a synthetic vapor rub:

  • Never swallow the vapor rub, as it can reach the lungs and cause congestion which can be fatal.
  • Take care that it doesn t get into your eyes as it can damage the cornea due to its strong chemical compositions.
  • Avoid rubbing vapor rub too close to your nostrils or on cracked areas. The camphor present in the vapor rub, if seeps into the skin, can cause further damage and lead to other complications due to toxicity.
  • Never use an over-the-counter vapor rub for children below two years of age. There are special rubs designed for them, however always seek advice from your pediatrician before using a synthetic rub for your baby.
  • Even if you are using a synthetic vapor rub the right way, it can cause damage if you depend on it heavily. Instead, if your cold and cough becomes unmanageable, talk to your doctor for further treatment options.
  • For potential dangers of a synthetic vapor rub, keep it away from the reach of children.

#5 What is the best alternative to synthetic vapor rub?

If you want to treat your chest congestion and get relief the natural way, you can also opt for home-made vapor rubs. These are easy-to-make and devoid of harmful chemicals. Here are few ways in which you can make a natural vapor rub:

#1: Vapor rub made of coconut oil and essential oils

How to prepare: To make this natural vapor rub you need half cup of coconut oil, 15 to 20 drops of peppermint, rosemary or lavender oil along with 5 to 10 drops of eucalyptus oil. During winter, coconut oil can become hard when kept in room temperature. To prepare the rub, heat it a little to get it in the liquid form. Allow the oil to cool, but take care that it doesn t return to its solid state. Next, mix all the oils and refrigerate it in a glass container with an air-tight lid.

How to use it: Before applying the rub, keep it at room temperature for some time and then apply it on your chest, neck and back. Refrain from applying the rub on your face.

#2: Vapor rub made of beeswax and other essential oils

How to prepare: Beeswax is a natural compound devoid of chemicals and safe to use even on children. You can find beewax in most shops that sell natural cosmetics. To prepare this rub, take four tablespoons of beeswax, 3 tablespoons of cocoa, shea or mango butter, four tablespoons of coconut oil and 60 drops of an essential oil of your choice (eucalyptus, rosemary, tea tree, lemon, peppermint, etc). Melt the beeswax and the butter in a pan. Remove the pan from the flame and allow it to cool. Next, mix the coconut oil and the essential oil to the melted wax and butter. Keep this mixture in a glass container with an air-tight lid. You can use this mixture for up to a year.

How to use: When you need instant relief, remove a little of the rub from the jar and rub it on your chest, neck and back.

#3: Vapor rub made of beeswax and virgin olive oil

How to prepare: This vapor rub can be used as a chest-rub. You need two tablespoons of grated beeswax, one-fourth cup of virgin olive oil, 25 drops of peppermint oil, 15 drops of rosemary oil and 10 drops of eucalyptus oil. Heat the wax and virgin olive oil in a pan and mix it well. Next, allow it to cool for a while and then whisk all the essential oils together. Do not allow the wax to become hard after heating it. Pour the mixture in an air-tight container and use it when needed. Store it in a cool dry place. You can use this mixture for up to a year.

How to use: To get relief from chest congestion apply this rub on your chest by massaging gently and leave it for a while.

Vapor rub for children

How to prepare: While making a homemade rub for children, keep in mind that their sensitive skin and immature system might not be compatible with all ingredients that you use to make an adult rub. For children, use four teaspoons of grated beeswax, three tablespoons of cocoa, shea or mango butter along with seven tablespoons of coconut and 30 drops of high quality essential oils (10 drops of eucalyptus, 10 drops of tea tree, five drops of lavender and five drops of chamomile oil). Melt beeswax and the butter in a pan, once it melts allow it to cool and then add coconut oil and the essential oils. Make sure that you mix the oils well before the wax and the butter becomes hard. Pour this mixture in a clean glass jar with an air-tight lid. This rub can be used for up to one year and stored at room temperature.

How to use: To relieve your baby s chest congestion, apply the rub gently on chest, back and neck. Keep off from applying it on the face.

Quick tip: If you wish to make a vapor rub that could help you get instant relief from nasal congestion, headaches and cough, make a rub with essentials oils like eucalyptus, rosemary and lemon along with beeswax, shea butter and coconut oil. Remember not all essential oils are safe to be applied on the face.

Note: Homemade vapor rubs work differently on different people, depending on the extent of their problem and medical condition. Also, essential oils aren t safe on all kind of skin types. If you experience any kind of irritation, shortness of breath or feel uneasy while using the natural vapor rub, discontinue using it and seek an appointment with your doctor to evaluate your condition.

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