“People do not die of little trifling colds.”

But what Mrs. Bennett didn’t say is sometimes it feels like you could.

I’m so annoyed. The kids have just gone back to school and this was supposed to be my chance to reconnect with my writing. Instead, I’m battling a stuffy nose, the plugged ears, chest congestion, cough and interrupted sleep. Despite the vaporizer fogging our upstairs with eucalyptus steam and a full complement of medicines, traditional and herbal, I am just barely functional when I wanted to be blazing into the new story. It’s so not fair!

Anyway, I thought I’d check out one of my period sources on medicine. It’s DOMESTIC MEDICINE, by William Buchan, first published in 1769 with 18 subsequent editions. (Click here to access the etext for the 1785 edition.) Buchan was pretty forward-thinking about general health and prevention and many of his suggestions are far less kooky than those of his counterparts (though that’s not saying much!) I think of it as the sort of book my heroines might have owned and used to help keep their families healthy during the happily-ever-after.

Anyway, here are some suggestions:

“THE patient ought to lie longer than usual a-bed…”

Please, Dr. Buchan, tell that to my kids!

“A SYRUP made of equal parts of lemon-juice, honey, and sugar-candy, is likewise very proper in this kind of cough. A table-spoonful of it may be taken at pleasure.”

This sounds very nice.

“If the pulse therefore be hard and frequent, the skin hot and dry, and the patient complains of his head or breast, it will be necessary to bleed, and to give the cooling powders recommended in the scarlet fever, every three or four hours, till they give a stool.”

I checked some of the recommended medications, and they include “Peruvian bark” and “snake root”. Googling these exotic terms, I learned that Peruvian Bark is also called cinchona bark, and can still be used to treat fevers. Seneca Snake Root has expectorant properties. OK, so far, Dr. Buchan is not so dumb.

However, I don’t think my medicine cabinet contains any Peruvian Bark or Snake Root…

And the bleeding I could definitely do without!

Here’s another tidbit.

“MANY attempt to cure a cold by getting drunk. But this, to say no worse of it, is a very hazardous experiment.”

Aw, I’m willing to try it at this point. It couldn’t make me feel any worse, could it????

LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE, nominee, RT Best Regency of 2005

About Elena Greene

Elena Greene grew up reading anything she could lay her hands on, including her mother's Georgette Heyer novels. She also enjoyed writing but decided to pursue a more practical career in software engineering. Fate intervened when she was sent on a three year international assignment to England, where she was inspired to start writing romances set in the Regency. Her books have won the National Readers' Choice Award, the Desert Rose Golden Quill and the Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence. Her Super Regency, LADY DEARING'S MASQUERADE, won RT Book Club's award for Best Regency Romance of 2005 and made the Kindle Top 100 list in 2011. When not writing, Elena enjoys swimming, cooking, meditation, playing the piano, volunteer work and craft projects. She lives in upstate New York with her two daughters and more yarn, wire and beads than she would like to admit.
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4 Responses to “People do not die of little trifling colds.”

  1. Actually, when I have the beginnings of a cold, I usually down a beer to help dehydrate my nose. It seems to help, at least that’s what I tell myself.

    I hope you feel better soon, Elena!

    My husband has one too, but that hasn’t stopped him from going to work. And I know your work never stops–how come stay-at-home moms get paid nothing and still can’t get a day off?!?

  2. Cara King says:

    Poor Elena! You and your family have been under the (often miserable) weather quite a bit recently! I hope your family gives you a break and you get that sleep and lemon and honey (or beer) or whatever makes you feel better!


  3. I’m so with you on this, Elena, since I’ve been down with a cold this week, too! That syrup thing sounds good, but yech on bleeding. I definitely think I will take the Megan prescription. 🙂

  4. Todd says:

    It’s good to know that the treatment of colds has advanced so much since the Regency. Apart from dropping the bleeding, we seem to…hmm, well actually, that’s about it.

    I sometimes take those weird zinc pastilles. Don’t know if they help, but maybe! There is one study that showed that they reduce the duration of a cold “by 42%.” Which sounds extremely precise, until you ask yourself, “If a cold normally lasts seven days, and is reduced by three days, what percentage is that?”

    As the saying goes: a cold lasts for a week, but with the care of a physician it can be cured in seven days.


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