Background information: My mom is a second-generation Filipino-American, meaning she was born here in the US. Her parents immigrated from the Philippines when they were both relatively young, and my mom’s family grew up with a lot of relatives in San Francisco, CA.
Mom: When you guys were young and you would get sick, I always made sure to put Vicks on your chest and back. You take a lot of Vicks and cover your chest and back with a layer of it and then put face cloths over it. It seals it and it helps you work through congestion and breathing. It clears out your sinuses so it gets easier to breathe. And then you also put Vicks on your feet and put socks over it.
Me: Why on your feet?
Mom: It helps to…suck the sickness out from your feet. The socks help seal it too.
Me: Why did you do this for us?
Mom: My mom always did it for us, and I know my grandma did too. I remember being sick and my grandma seeing me and asking my mom “Did you do this? Did you do that?” always talking about using enough Vicks on us (laughs). I think a lot of Filipino moms know about this one. Your lola knows about it too.
This medical practice is definitely something very specific to Filipino families, as I remember asking my friends if they knew about putting Vicks on their feet, and very rarely did people know what I was talking about. As a child, even though it was uncomfortable, I knew that Vicks would help me get well again because my mom and grandma felt so strongly about doing it as soon as I showed any signs of having a cold. Despite this being a practice of folklore that families pass down on their own, it feels like an “official” medical practice just because I’m so used to doing it.