Dealing with Small Pox

Before you panic, I don’t have Small Pox.  I have picked up my 1866 household medical guide and done a little light reading before bed.  Gunn’s New Family Physician or Home Book of Health says that many ladies in the country could deal with Small  Pox as well as or better than a physician.  This is surprising considering the disease killed and blinded thousands!   So how did the book suggest these ladies deal with this?  It starts out like a flu with a fever so you bathe the feet in lye water.  Lye water is a corrosive poison 

Lye water is in fact a poison, under the
Controlled Substances Act, 1984. As
such, it requires specific packaging
and labelling.

Nice start.  Spearmint or Peppermint tea if the patient feel nauseous.  I can live with that.  I prefer not to have chemical burns on my feet but a nice tea would be soothing.  But, if you can relieve the patient of the upset tummy, you must then give them a good dose of purgative (ie laxative).  They were obsessed with bowels!  Once the bowels are empty and if they feel nauseated or are throwing up, you give them something to make them throw up .  I’m not following the logic!

Once the rash to the skin shows up, the patient should be drinking teas made from saffron and catnip.  I wonder how that would taste?  Then one gets more lye water baths on the feet on the body to open the pores!

For headaches, you bathe the head in vinegar and water.  I think people still do that.  Then you add a mustard plaster to the bottom of the feet.  Those mustard plasters had the potential to cause burns if they weren’t done right.  Between the lye water and the mustard plasters, it is a miracle if they ever walk again!

For phlegm, the patient should gargle in a decoction  of sage, honey and borax.  Borax.  Isn’t that laundry soap?

To prevent scaring on the face, silk should be soaked in olive oil and applied to the face and the patient kept in a completely dark room.

The crowning glory to this list of instructions was the warning that some folks can end up with a diarrhea that leads to gangrene and mortification.  Does that mean what I think it means?!  That can’t be pleasant at all!

Thank the good Lord, that small pox is eradicated now!

Well, on that pleasant note, I will head to bed and have nightmares about the business end of my butt rotting off!

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