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Tag Archives: domestic medicine

If you follow my Diane Gaston Blog, you will know that my father-in-law was hospitalized last week necessitating my quick trip to Williamsburg where the dh’s parents live. It turned out he had pneumonia and a flu virus, but they had feared he had one of those antibiotic resistent “superbugs.” Not the case, thank goodness.

After two days of hospital treatment, my father-in-law came home on antibiotics and was really in pretty good shape, up and around, alert, only a little slowed down physically. His illness made me wonder, though, what it might have been like if he’d lived in Regency times.

In 1918, Dr. William Osler, the father of modern medicine, called pneumonia the “captain of the men of death.” Indeed, it is now thought that a great portion of the 600,000 deaths in influenza pandemic of 1918 were due to bacterial pneumonia which took over after the flu virus compromised the immune system.

In Regency times, pneumonia was called “peripneumony”or inflammation of the lungs. It was treated with bleeding, at least until the patient was able to expectorate. After bleeding blisters were applied. Blistering was the practice of applying plasters to the skin with caustic substances that caused blisters. The blisters would pull the diseased humors from the body and then would be drained. Other treatments included enemas, sweating, and, probably most effective, concoctions that would promote coughing or “expectoration.”

I’m always appalled at how the treatments of illness in these early times seemed to put more strain on the body than would provide relief. (Although we now know bloodletting is an effective treatment for a few very specific conditions) Luckily today we have antibiotics and immunization to combat pneumonia so that it is no longer the “captain of the men of death.”

Have you come across any alarming treatments used during Regency times?

Stop by my website and see my newest bookcover – for Born to Scandal coming out December, 2012. Read a sneak peek.

I’ve been sick most of this week and Behind on Everything, so I thought I’d recycle this post from a few years ago. Old but still apropos.

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“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. 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????

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I’m still not up for bloodletting, but I am grateful for: Advil Cold & Sinus, echinacea and green tea. As a bonus, this week I watched Northanger Abbey (the delightful 2007 version) with my older daughter, who was also sick and off school for a day. I’d been promising her this ever since we read the book together, and it certainly made us both feel better!

How do you comfort yourself through a cold?

And congratulations to the following winners of a Kindle or Nook copy of SAVING LORD VERWOOD. Please send your email address, and if you wish, the email address of a friend who might enjoy a copy, to elena @ (no spaces). Also, please be sure to let me know if you want Nook or Kindle.

Maria D


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