Saturday, March 2, 2013


It all started Thursday – that annoying tickling sensation in the back of my throat, that funny cough and the slight sniffle – but today, it’s the Real Deal.

I’ve got a cold – not such a big event in this day and age. After all, my local pharmacy has an endless supply of OTC medications from which I can choose, and most of them do a fairly good job of relieving my worst symptoms.

Back at the beginning of the 19th-century, though, things were different. Illness was not taken lightly, and even the common cold made news. Here are a few 1901 East Pittston (Maine) social notes in the Reporter-Journal, the nearby Gardiner newspaper:

Bad colds are raging among the children in this vicinity. Some have not been able to attend school for a few days as the colds are so severe while they last. They come on sudden and some have been as well as usual and attended school one day and be sick in bed the next day.

It seems the adults were falling like flies, too:
Miss Ada Thompson came home from Gardiner, Saturday, where she has been recently employed, and is confined to her bed with a bad cold.

And Ada’s neighbor, Charles Henry Crocker, was next:
C.H. Crocker has been confined to the house for about a week having taken a sudden cold but is now able to be about again.

There were a few cold medications on the market, but I’m not at all sure about how effective (or safe!) they were.  Bayer was making aspirin then, so at least Ada and Charles Henry could take something to relieve the headaches and body pains. (I’m reminded, though, that there were only cloth handkerchiefs – no disposable tissues – can you imagine the laundry issues? And don’t you love the instructions for using the Nasal Tablets? “In solution for gargling the throat or snuffing up the nostrils.”)

At any rate, there’s a lesson for us all here.

When people got colds one hundred years ago, they were a lot smarter than we are today. When they got sick, they went to bed, and they stayed home until they were better.

We should pay closer attention to that, I think.


  1. I know it was funny the other night the news were telling us all- if you get the flu doctors say- stay home for seven days- and get somebody else to go to the store for you! Makes perfect sense, of course not everyone has the luxury of being able to stay out of work for 7 days!

    1. You're so right, Karen! And a perfect argument for universal health care and sick pay for all! Thanks for your input.

  2. Rest is the best! Not everybody can afford to take the day off of work though.

    These are great, Deb.

    Kathy M.

    1. I worked for years in public schools (sign language interpreter); I watched sick kids struggle because their parents couldn't afford to take the day off -- I know what a problem it is! Again: universal health care and mandated sick pay would help tremendously!
      Nice to hear from you, Kathy!

  3. I'm wondering if the throat and nasal meds are simply salt ("to be used in solution"). It would be another great example of putting something otherwise readily available in a bottle or box and charging a bundle for it, These days nasal irrigation is all the rage with the Health Food Store People. There is even a little pitcher with which to administer it. Nothing new under the sun, maybe. Feel better,, and **rest**. xo