Thursday, October 21, 2010

Odd Medical Treatments of the 18th and 19th Centuries


It’s hard to imagine having your doctor recommend sulfuric acid as mouthwash, but in the 18th and 19th centuries many other unsafe and unsanitary practices including this were considered protocol (the norm). The U.K.’s national archives has released numerous medical diaries that contain detailed explanations of outlandish and sometimes successful treatments that were kept by royal navy officers. One account entails of a man who was revived with tobacco smoke after being overboard for more than 10 minutes. Rum was a much favored treatment for many things including headaches, spider bites, and scorpion stings. Another common practice – bloodletting was used to “cure” pneumonia. The patient was required to bleed 3.5 pints every three hours which inevitably led to death. One entry details a 12 year old girl vomiting an 87 inch long worm which was no doubt due to the effect of ingesting undercooked meat that came from cattle that were infected with tapeworms. This does not go to say that many of these illnesses could not have been prevented. Drunken brawls and gun fights were the cause of many broken bones and concussions. Another entry discusses the spread of venereal diseases on the HMS Gladiator in which one sailor infected with syphilis encounters a young woman with gonorrhea as an “experiment”. All in all, while these diaries may be appalling, they also provide a more accurate view of the high seas when it was run by the Royal Navy.

Brittany S. Period 1

4 comments:

NaomiT said...

To be honest I find this fascinating and grotesque at the same time. The fact that during this period that was "modern medicine" really shows how far we have come as a society. This was an interesting article that gave a detailed insight into what unsanitary practices went on during these times!

Ryan Alexander said...

I am very grateful for our advancements today. I couldn't imagine what these people had gone through. If we used these ways today, there would be many deaths that could not be cured.The way they tried to cure pnemonia pretty much gave a 100% chance of dieing by giving 3.5 pints every three ours with bloodletting. There is no way that i could ever blood let cause i hate justlooking at blood already. And the girl who vomited a 87 inch were would never be possible today because no one would ever eat raw meat that is infected. Life back in the day was not very good if you were someone who would get sick.

jaclyn.dewitt said...

This is crazy! I can't believe that some of these things were considered to be treatments. I am so thankful that we have the medical treatments we have today. It is amazing how they thought that bloodletting could cure pneumonia and other things like that. This article shows how far we have come, but it is also interesting to see what people believed was helpful.

Robert said...

It's really bizzare when you think of what the people back then thought of these practices. Wouldn't they notice that something was wrong with washing your mouth with sulfuric ACID when their teeth began to corrode? But, it's even weirder when you think of what the people in the future will think of our "normal" practices.