Curiosity why some things work…

I am sure my best friend won’t mind if I use my darling Godson as a blog post subject.

My 2 year old Godson has been stricken with croup and a chesty cough on top of that now, and he has been sleeping fitfully and being sick a lot as well.  Poor little chap.  It was suggested by one of our mutual Facebook friends that she try putting Vicks Vapo-rub on the soles of his feet to stop the coughing.  It worked!

Vaporub

After reporting this fact, my friend was curious as to why it worked, and to be fair, I was thoroughly intrigued and so I have done some speedy research.  I know from previous research that a traditional folk remedy for bad chests is to put poultices on your feet, and I know anecdotally that it works a treat, but what is the scientific reason why it works?

My research turned up something called the Theory of Counter Irritation.  Essentially, what this states is that if you have an internal pain, or discomfort in one place, then causing a pain or irritation in another place  or externally will help alleviate the original pain or discomfort.  That seems something of a circular argument to me, seeing as you will still have a pain or irritation, but I suppose the menthol, eucalyptus and camphor in the Vapo-rub is not really pain.  It isn’t really discomfort either.  Still.  I am not sure I am necessarily convinced by this argument.

reflexology chart

So the other explanation I found surrounds reflexology and how parts of the feet essential parts of this holistic practice.  Basically, the idea behind reflexology is that there are different areas of the feet which have links to different parts of the body.  Massaging the feet can, according to this theory, really assist you in maintaining overall health.  My hypothesis in relation to Vicks Vapo-Rub is therefore that rubbing the warming jelly on the feet will relax the body and if the body is relaxed, then hopefully coughing will be less of an issue.  I don’t know about you, but after having a foot rub, I tend to be all floppy and relaxed, so this theory persuades me slightly more.

toddler sleeping

In the final analysis however, who cares why it works.  When you are desperate to do something to help a small person struggling to sleep and coughing a lot, you are really only worried about making sure SOMETHING works, not necessarily why it works or how it works.  Still, something to be remembered for the next time I feel like death warmed up and have a cough that just won’t quit!

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One thought on “Curiosity why some things work…

  1. Isobel Morrell

    The old wives’ tales are often based on scientific fact! It just wasn’t known as science in the old wives’ time. Something similar to the effect of a bar of soap in one’s bed and how it wards off cramp. It works, believe me – and as one who’s been a martyr to night cramps in the past, I’m happy to carry on, no matter the sceptical reactions around me

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