First Aid a la 1866

A few weeks ago, I had to take a first aid course for work.  One of the things we had to learn was how to deal with puncture wounds until a doctor could take over.

I thought it would be fun to read what Gunn’s home medical book had to say.

Punctured Wounds, which are made with a pointed instrument; as a needle, a nail, or a bayonet.  Sometimes a wound is both punctured and incised, as when made with a dirk which both punctures and cuts.

When you consider this was written for people to deal with illness and injuries at home, it is a bit freaky to consider that bayonet injuries would be a concern.  But, this was written just post civil war so may be they were dealing with such things.  I am fairly sure I shan’t have to worry about bayonet wounds in my lifetime…at least I hope not.

Puncture wounds, if very deep, should not be allowed to heal at the surface very speedily, and consequently should not be closed up with Adhesive Plaster.  They are very apt to become inflamed and suppurate (give off pus), and may lead to very serious consequences, if allowed to heal by the first intention (initially) at the surface. 

I think this is fairly common practice today with deep wounds being packed with gauze to encourage the wound to heal first at the deep end and not allowing the skin edge to close over until that healing is complete.

If you have reason to believe that tendons are injured by the wound, treat it as directed under the head of “Lock-jaw.” 

I looked up Lockjaw in the book and this is what it said.

Causes-It is almost invariably caused by wound or injuries of the tendonous portions of the body, though sometimes it will arise from any wound, especially in warm climates, and occasionally from other cause.

There was no mention of the germs that we now know cause tetanus but there was some understanding that infection was bad.  It seems to me the cause, for mid-Victorian era folks, was the severity of the wound and not on the germs that may have been introduced to the system.

Back to the puncture wound and its treatment.

If the wound is of a serious nature and there is threatened inflammation, active Hydragogue Purgatives (a laxative that works by drawing water from the system-Victorians and their bowel obsessions!) will be necessary, as the Anti-bilious Physic and Cream of Tartar, and the patient may also take a dose of Laudanum or Opium occasionally.

I get how a bit of pain-killer might be helpful (so long as the patient didn’t end up an addict) but I’m at a loss to know how a good bowel movement would be of use.

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4 thoughts on “First Aid a la 1866

  1. Shirley A Victorian says:

    A good BM can make you feel Great, try it…. I still like the laudanum idea.

  2. Not being able to “go” sucks. But, I always expect a medical book to be more cause and effect. In this case, being backed up did not cause a puncture wound and having a puncture wound, say in the foot, would not cause constipation. (A boyonet wound to the gut is a different matter.) If laudanum is like all the other “good” pain killers I have ever taken, the patients might need a good stick of dynamite after a day or two of taking that. Thus far, I have not found a reference in my book to that particular side effect.

  3. Shirley A Victorian says:

    most meds were given rectally as they were to harsh to take orally. Maybe they thought the Infection would come out with the rest of the body wastes? Remember they were trying to “cure” the puncture not cause it. What goes in must come out?

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