How Did We Handle Ailments Back Then

Image of a container of Vicks VapoRub

Vicks VaporRub in that famous blue bottle

I was trying to remember when we went to a doctor years ago, when I grew up in Pasadena. I only remember one time actually going to see a doctor.  I had stomach pain for several days, and Dad,not Mom, took me.  He took me to the hospital in Corner Brook. I don`t  know if there was a doctor stationed in our community at that time. I certainly don`t recall hearing that so and so was our family doctor.

If we got a cold, Mom put Vicks on our chest. I heard about people eating Vicks but I never ate any myself.  I do recall the smell of that Vicks. Mom put cold cloths on our foreheads if we got a fever. We might be given an aspirin and then stripped down to cool us off. I believe that early on we didn`t have a thermometer. Then when we got one, it was the glass one with the mercury in it.

If we got a boil or abcess, Mom made a bread poultice and wrapped it in cotton and tied it around the risen part of the skin. The abcess might be lanced by Dad, using a large darning needle, which was cleaned by pouring boiled water over it.  It would be left overnight and in the morning we`d find the pus in the cotton and it would be thrown away. Then the skin would be cleaned.

If someone had a sick stomach, I believe we were given Ginger wine, diluted with boiled water. We were told to sip on it and our stomach would get better.

For a cut, the breakage in the skin was cleaned and then iodine or mecurchrome was rubbed on it to disinfect it. Boy, did it sting!

I do remember getting butter rubbed on a burn, and I know now that this was not a good thing to do. Could there have been any benefit, I wonder!

When we were sick, Mom gave us soup and it seemed to work, just as chicken soup is recommended these days. Many people swear that partridge broth offers nutrition for sick persons. I believe my father told us this, which he learned in his childhood home of St. Shotts but I don`t remember ever seeing partridge on the west coast of Newfoundland.

Chicken soup is a common classic comfort food ...

Chicken Soup For The Body

One time I fell out of a tree, as I was helping build a treehouse with some of my male friends. I sprained my ankle but wouldn`t dare tell my parents or they would call me a tomboy. I just refrained from putting all my weight on the ankle and eventually it got better. Rest was considered a remedy for many ailments, except for the adults who didn`t have that option available to them. They had to continue working!

Most of my sisters and brothers had measles, mumps and chicken pox, but I didn`t get either of these. I don`t recall much being done for them to help ease their pain. I did try to fake having mumps to stay home from school but it didn`t work! Mom just grinned and told me I was going to school!

I`m sure I`ll remember other remedies used, and I will add them over the next few weeks.  If you think of any remedies, make a comment and I`ll add them.

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About Newfoundland Traveller

I'm a Newfoundlander with a love of reading, writing and travelling. I've travelled around our province and lived in four provinces of Canada. I love a good book and a good blog. My family means the world to me, and some day I hope to travel to many countries of the world with my husband and sons' families.
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11 Responses to How Did We Handle Ailments Back Then

  1. Pingback: Bookstore Visit « newfoundlandtraveller

  2. Dor says:

    Your memories are mostly the same as mine – especially the Vicks cure. In fact, I mentioned that in a previous blog post. Somehow we survived and thrived didn’t we, with only chicken soup and Vicks? Calamine lotion for a rash. The back of Mom’s hand on my forehead for a fever. Then Alcohol rubs. I had asthma as a kid and they encouraged me to drink warm milk with melted butter! Probably not the best idea. Oh, I could go on and on and on. Thanks so much for sharing your memories. They are mostly the same as mine!

  3. Pingback: Mom, I Don’t Feel Well! « Technicolor Day Dreams

  4. I remember Mom got to go to Grandma’s with the new baby, and naturally while she was away I got sick. Our German neighbor Irene came over and put an onion plaster on my chest. Don’t know if it worked, but it probably scared vampires away. No, that’s garlic! 🙂

    Once when I was about 12, I had a Job episode–23 boils on my body. I soaked in a tub with salt and water as hot as I could stand it till the boils would release their poison. Fun stuff!

  5. Pingback: Salt of the Earth « newfoundlandtraveller

  6. tschack4 says:

    These home remedies must be universal–I grew up in West Texas and we used the same Vicks treatments with warm rag wrapped and pinned around the chest, the mercurochrome (mercury!) and iodine antiseptics, chicken soup, calomine lotion for chickenpox, etc. My mom did put Vicks in her throat when it was sore, but I never could!

  7. tschack4 says:

    I agree about eating Vicks. Not only does it taste terrible, but the petrochemicals in it are not good to ingest, maybe not even to rub on the skin. But we didn’t know that “back then”. My grandmother was raised to “touch their tongues to turpentine” to cure a sore throat! She lived to be a few days shy of 101, though.

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