The Blind Pig family has been lucky this winter-none of us have been sick much-I feel like I should say knock on wood-and actually knock-that’s what Granny would do. My niece and I shared a lovely stomach bug on Thanksgiving night-I may never want to eat Turkey again-but other than that we’ve mostly been well.
Some of you may remember-in the winter of 2009 I had the worst case of flu I’ve ever had-well I’ve only had the real flu twice-so maybe I should say-I was sicker than I’ve ever been in my life. I couldn’t even let my Blind Pig readers know-I finally had The Deer Hunter let everyone know-I hadn’t died although I felt like I might. If you missed the posts you can read about it here:
I remember learning about the 1918 Flu Epidemic in school-seems like it was in Elementary School. I’m sure I thought it was interesting and sad-but 2 things made the stark reality of the Epidemic come alive for me. One was my bout of the flu in 09-I truly did think I was near death’s door more than once-and the other was when I first visited one of the old cemeteries that are scattered through out the Smoky Mountain National Park.
Proctor was the first cemetery I visited along with the kids from TLC! I was so busy snapping photos I didn’t take time to really read the info on the stones-until one of the students pointed out several from the same family who died within days of each other. Right away I thought of the flu of 1918.
While it was obvious some of the stones in the Proctor Cemetary were from the era of the Great Flu-we soon noticed other mass casualties from the same family occurred in different time frames. Although it had been months since I had the flu-as I looked and thought about the heartache those families endured by loosing more than one beloved to the 1918 Flu or to some other spreading illness-it made me so thankful to live in the days of modern medicine with fever reducers in my medicine cabinet.
In 1918 The NC Board of Health offered the following advice about the Flu Epidemic:
“Influenza and What You Should Know About It,” Bulletin of the North Carolina Board of Health, 33:5 (1918), pp. 38–39.
How and Where Influenza is Spread
- By careless spitting, coughing, sneezing, and using the same drinking vessel or towel others have used. The disease germs are carried in the spittle and in the little drops of secretion from the nose and throat.
- In crowds and public gatherings, churches, schools, picture shows, business houses, fairs, circuses, trains, or in any other places where people congregate. Soda fountains are especially dangerous if they do not supply individual sanitary cups and sterilized spoons.
How to Keep Away From Taking Influenza
- Keep away from crowds, especially indoor gatherings.
- Avoid people who cough, sneeze and spit without holding a handkerchief over the nose and mouth.
- Do not use common drinking cups or towels, and keep away from the soda fountain that does not supply individual cups and sterilized spoons.
- Keep the bowels open. Snuff Vaseline up the nose three times a day. Gargle mouth and throat and rinse out nose with warm salt water, using a level teaspoonful of salt to a glass of warm water. Sleep and eat regularly. These are very important.
- Keep in the open air and sunshine as much as practicable and have good ventilation in the home and office. Sleep with your windows open.
- Wash your hands before eating and never put your unwashed hands in your mouth.
- Do not give the disease to others—when you sneeze or cough always bow the head and cover both the nose and mouth with handkerchief.
Symptoms of Influenza and What to Do if You Take It
- In most cases a person taken with influenza feels sick rather suddenly. He feels weak, has pains in the eyes, ears, head or back, and may be sore all over. Many patients feel dizzy, some vomit. Most of the patients complain of feeling chilly, and with this comes a fever in which the temperature rises to 100 degrees to 104 degrees. In most cases the pulse remains relatively slow.In appearance one is struck by the fact that the patient looks sick. His eyes and the inner side of his eyelids may be slightly bloodshot or congested. There may be running from the nose, and there may be some cough. These signs of a cold may not be marked; nevertheless the patient looks and feels very sick.
- If you have any of the above symptoms, go to bed at once and send for a doctor and follow his directions explicitly.
- If you cannot obtain a doctor at once, stay in bed with plenty of cover to keep you warm, open all the windows and keep them open, take medicine to open the bowels freely, and take nourishing food, as milk, eggs, and broth, every four hours.
- Allow no one else to sleep in the same room. Protect others by sneezing and coughing into cloths which can be boiled or burned.
- Stay in bed until a doctor tells you it is safe to get up; or, until you have been without a fever for at least four days.
What To Do After Recovering From an Attack of Influenza
- Influenza is a treacherous disease. If one is fortunate enough to escape pneumonia during or immediately following the attack, the lungs and respiratory system are frequently so inflamed that tuberculosis develops. The heart is overworked and needs rest. Therefore, do not return to work or leave home until you have regained your strength, whether it is a week or a month.
- If complete recovery does not take place within two weeks, have your family physician carefully and thoroughly examine every vital organ and function of the body. Follow instructions the doctor may give you after such an examination.
Taken from NC Digital Collection.
Much of the advice given by the NC Board of Health in 1918 would still be good advice today-I’m not so sure about the sniffing of Vaseline though. It is true sickness can hit you quickly. When the girls were little and a stomach virus infiltrated our home-it would show it’s ugly head in both girls within a matter of hours.
Unless folks lived in cities or towns I doubt they would have even heard about the NC Board of Health’s advice-much less read it. Families who lived in rural areas of Western NC and beyond-probably relied on oldtimey Medicinal Remedies and a good deal of faith to get through the sicknesses that sometimes blindsided their homes.
Before the Flu Epidemic of 1918 was over-it killed millions of people across the world. On the video above-he infers the flu making itself known in the mountains of TN was proof the outside world had reached one of the most isolated regions in the US. Kinda makes me think about smallpox and other sicknesses that were hand delivered to the Native Americans.
Click here to see some photos from the Epidemic of 1918-none from Appalachia-but still fascinating.