Camphor in the vapor rub might improve symptoms
Scientist had reviewed several theories about the Camphor in the vapor rub might improve symptoms, including providing a sensation of improved nasal airflow.
Camphor rightly emphasize the potential benefit of improved sleep for both the children and the parents.
As a result there is an improvement in symptoms may be entirely the result of perception — perception by the child of improved airflow and improved parental perception of how severe the symptoms were because the parent slept better.
Whatever the mechanism is, the use of vapor rub would appear to offer a potential intervention for parents frustrated by URI symptoms.
Few approaches, especially over-the-counter medications, have demonstrated improvement of upper respiratory tract infection (URI) symptoms in children. Paul and colleagues tested whether a bedtime application of a petrolatum product containing camphor — vapor rub (VR) — to the chest of a child with a URI would result in parental reports of improvement of the child’s symptoms and improved child and parental sleep. This was a placebo-controlled trial from 2008-2010 conducted at a single medical center. Children were 2-11 years old, with at least “moderate” URI symptoms. Symptoms were assessed by means of a standardized instrument. Children were excluded if they had conditions that would complicate URIs or complications of URIs, including asthma, pneumonia, or chronic lung disease.
The experimental phase-
- This comprised a single overnight period when parents applied a compound containing either VR or plain petrolatum to the chests of their children at bedtime.
- A third group received no treatment.
- Parents were asked not to give over-the-counter medications for URI except ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or nasal saline.
- To attempt to mask parents to the treatment their child had received, the parents of the children in the 2 treatment groups placed a premeasured amount of VR above their own upper lips before opening and applying the study compound to their child.
- Parents applied the study compound to their child’s chest and neck, rubbing it in for 1 minute.
- Parents were asked to leave the VR under their own noses until completing the symptom diary the next morning.
- Parents completed a symptom assessment within 30 minutes of awakening the next morning, reporting the frequency and severity of their child’s cough, severity of nasal congestion, severity of runny nose, child’s ability to sleep, and their own ability to sleep the previous night.
- The parents also reported on potential adverse events and were also asked what treatment they believed their child received.
- The primary outcome was change in symptoms as measured by the difference in symptom scores between the night before enrollment and the treatment night.
A total of 138 children completed the study (44 in the VR group, 47 in the petrolatum group, and 47 in the no-treatment group). No significant differences were evident among the groups at enrollment. The mean age of the children was 5.8 years.
As a result:
- On average, children had experienced symptoms for 4 days.
- When comparing the pre-enrollment night with the intervention night, all groups reported lower symptoms for all items assessed.
- Many of the between-group differences were statistically significant, meaning that the petrolatum group did better than the no-treatment group and the VR group did better than the petrolatum group.
- Runny nose was the only symptom with no between-group differences in any comparison.
- However, in other pairwise comparisons, the VR group did better than the no-treatment group for the remaining symptoms and better than the petrolatum group for cough frequency, cough severity, child’s ability to sleep, and parent’s ability to sleep.
- These basic relationships persisted even after controlling for duration of symptoms. A burning sensation on the chest was reported by 28% of the children, with another 16% and 14% experiencing burning sensations in their noses or eyes, respectively.
- More than 85% of the parents correctly guessed their child’s treatment assignment. The investigators concluded that VR, a commonly used remedy for children with colds, is effective in improving symptoms.