How Do I Choose the Best Chest Rub?

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  • Written By: A.E. Freeman
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 01 April 2020
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A chest rub is often used when a person is congested. Rubbing it on the chest can help soothe the symptoms of a cold. There are several types of chest rubs available, including commercially produced varieties that contain camphor and menthol. Natural versions have essential oils and beeswax. If the rub is intended for an infant or toddler, you should choose one that is designed for this age group.

Most commercial varieties of chest rub, also called vapor rub, are meant for people more than the age of two. Studies have shown that these rubs are effective in relieving the congestion felt from a cold. While the chest rubs do not actually relieve congestion, they trick your body into thinking you feel less congested, as the menthol has a strong scent that makes you feel as if you can breathe well again.

Applying the rub to the chest can help soothe coughs as well. Some people experience relief from muscle aches and pain when using a vapor rub. The rub can help ease muscle stress and improve blood flow.

If you need a chest rub for a child who is younger than two, choose one that is designed specifically for babies or toddlers. These rubs don't contain menthol or camphor, which can irritate a toddler's air passages. Camphor is also potentially fatal if ingested by a baby. Look for chest rubs for babies that contain ingredients such as aloe vera and lavender.


Camphor can also cause problems in older children and adults. If it comes in contact with your eyes, for example, your cornea may be damaged. You shouldn't use chest rubs that contain camphor near your nostrils or other openings on your body.

A homemade chest rub or an organic one that does not contain camphor may be a better option for you. To make your own rub, mix between 10 and 20 drops of an essential oil, such as peppermint or eucalyptus, into a few ounces of almond oil. You can also use petroleum jelly if you prefer. Start with a lower amount of essential oil, especially if the rub is for a young child.

Natural herbal versions of a vapor rub may be available and may be preferable if you want to avoid camphor and do not want to make your own. Usually, natural rubs have a base of beeswax or coconut oil. Herbs used in the rubs may include lavender and eucalyptus. Some contain herbs such as coriander or chamomile.


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Post 3

Menthol is pretty smelly. It brings back memories of the greasy rubs of my childhood. But, for achy muscles and joints, it might just be a good choice. It could provide a soothing warmth.

Post 2

I don't know. As a mom, I would steer clear of anything that is "potentially fatal" to my child. I will not use camphor for the reasons described in the article. However, if there is even a small chance that a vapor rub will help ease my child's discomfort, brought on by a cold-even if that comfort is just perceived in his head, I will apply it.

I believe just the act of applying a homemade rub on the child's chest and the accompanying fragrance of the rub, would at least be a comfort measure. I would choose eucalyptus and peppermint over the strong smell of menthol.

Post 1

So, you really don't actually feel better? The article states, "While the chest rubs do not actually relieve congestion, they trick your body into thinking you feel less congested, as the menthol has a strong scent that makes you feel as if you can breathe well again..."

I don't know how I feel about this. There is no healing taking place, no opening of sinus passages? It all sounds so psychosomatic. Vapor rubs make us think we feel better, so we feel better. I should have known. Vapor rubs never made me feel better as a child. I think it is an action that makes moms feel better when their kids are sick. We have to do something for our miserable child.

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