10 Surprising Uses for Vapor Rub

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Some parents everywhere swear by the healing power of vapor rub. It's been used to treat cough and cold symptoms since the 1890s, when Vicks VapoRub was invented. But vapor rub — a mentholated ointment that includes topical analgesics and other ingredients — can do a lot more than quiet a cough. Its strong odor and pain-relieving qualities make vapor rub a truly multifunctional item to keep on hand.

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1. Treat Itchy Insect Bites

If you've ever had a mosquito bite on your ankle, you know that a single tiny bite can drive you absolutely mad. The next time a little pest takes a bite out of you, apply some vapor rub to the area. It'll relieve the discomfort and itching, and should help minimize swelling.

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2. Repel Insects, Too

You can't help it that all the neighborhood insects are naturally attracted to you. Luckily, if you treat your first insect bite with vapor rub, you may notice that bugs start steering clear. Vicks VapoRub includes cedarleaf oil, a natural insect repellent. Other brands of vapor rub may also contain different ingredients that keep insects at bay. For example, Puriya Breathe-Ease Balm contains lavender oil, another insect repellant.

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3. Relax Aching Muscles

Vapor rub isn't only for sore and aching muscles caused by sickness. It can be a useful tool for athletes and anyone who suffers with aches and pains. When you pull a calf muscle or wake up with a crick in your neck, try massaging vapor rub into the affected area. Bonus: the mentholated odor will wake you up as effectively as coffee.

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4. Heal Your Heels

Cracked and dry heels are a normal part of being an active person. Just because it's normal doesn't make it any less irritating, though. Vapor rub can work wonders on cracked heels, especially if it has hydrating ingredients like beeswax and coconut oil. Try Natrulo Vapor Rub, which contains both. Before bed, massage the ointment onto clean skin. Wear socks to bed and wash your feet in the morning.

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5. Make a Smelly Job Easier

That stinky trashcan isn't going to empty itself, nor is the baby going to change their own diaper. It's time to face the (smelly) music. Before tackling a task that you know is going to involve unpleasant odors, rub a small amount of vapor rub just under your nose. The strong mentholated smell will mask everything else. Be careful to keep the ointment from getting in your nose.

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6. Minimize Sunburn Pain

You had your fun in the sun, and now you're paying the price. Vapor rub won't get rid of a sunburn, but it will temporarily relieve the discomfort and cool your burned skin. It may also minimize swelling and redness. If you don't have aloe available, vapor rub is a good backup.

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7. Soothe a Headache

Vapor rub is commonly used to soothe chest aches, but it can be equally potent for an aching head. Try massaging a little of the ointment onto your temples and across your forehead. If you've taken pain relievers for the ache, the vapor rub may ease your suffering while you wait for the medication to kick in. You can also try a product like Maty's All Natural Baby Chest Rub, which contains soothing ingredients like chamomile and lavender.

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8. Repel a Scratching Cat

You pay for everything, while they lie around all day — and your cat still has the nerve to scratch up your expensive furniture? That furry freeloader is lucky to be so cute. Many cats are repelled by the smell of vapor rub. Smear a little on the leg of any furniture that you want your cat to stay away from.

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9. Potty-Train a Puppy

A new puppy has a lot to learn about the big, bright world. One of the most important lessons to learn is where they can and can't relieve themselves. With its powerful odor, vapor rub has a tendency to get through to even the most stubborn little pup. Whey they "go" indoors, smear a little vapor rub in that area to keep the pup from returning and doing it again.

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10. Ease Ear Pain

Vapor rub is never a substitute for a doctor's advice about ear pain. But some ear pain sufferers swear that vapor rub quickly numbs discomfort in their outer ears. Coating a cotton ball with vapor rub and tucking it loosely into your ear may give you the same relief — but always talk to your doctor about the cause of your pain before putting anything in your ears.

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