first of all, my grandmother used to spread this on our chests and then pin a flannel cloth over it. it was warm and very comforting. had she known about the cough/feet thing she would have done that, too. she also gave up catnip tea if we felt ill or were too overstimulated by playing to sleep.
I adored my grandmother.
I had a roommate once who put vicks inside her nose for a stopped up nose and dryness. this is, as it turns out, a bad thing to do on an ongoing basis. it has a petroleum jelly base which, if inhaled habitually, can often cause lung trouble, a chronic pneumonia-type thing.
also, I think I can say with some certainty that germs are not a problem with vicks. I don't think anything would survive in there. maybe if it came i vats that were open and various insect things got in there? fortunately, it is more often grandmothers...
hth someone. i got some ideas from this thread and will promptly begin a cough remedy..