Appalachia Appalachian Medicine

The Flu According to Blind Pig Readers


Seems like every day I hear more about the flu that is rampant across the country. Schools and hospital wards are closing in an effort to do some extra cleaning and to allow the germs to die.

Schools here are still open, but sickness is plentiful. A strange phenomenon is happening in my area of Appalachia. Folks who test positive for the flu are also testing positive for strep throat. Talk about a double whammy!

It’s been years since I had the flu. I’ve actually only had it twice in my lifetime and after the last bout I sure don’t ever want it again. It was back in 2008 when I first started the Blind Pig. The Deer Hunter was working out of town in those days. I had to call him to come home and take care of me. I stayed on the couch for two weeks and truthfully thought I might die. No one else in the family got it except me, and I was glad. I swore I picked up the germ contra dancing at the folk school.

Over the years I’ve written about the flu here on the Blind Pig and The Acorn. Here are some comments from the archives about the flu.

  • Jean: Little girls use to jump rope to this songs back in 1918. I had a little bird, It’s name was Enza, I opened up the window, And in-flew-Enza.
  • RB: I was trying to remember which Grandmother did this, but I can’t, but one of them, at the first sign of any illness, doped you up with tablespoons full of Milk of Magnesia to give you the runs to run the sickness right out of you, and I’m thinking that was probably very dangerous for someone who was already dehydrated due to vomiting, etc., but it was a pretty common thing to do back then.
  • Charline: My Dad was born in 1918. His father and three of his uncles caught the influenza in October. Miraculously, my grandfather survived, but his three brothers did not- two in their 20’s (leaving widows and young children) and one in his teens. These were mournful times in the Arkansas Ouachita Mts. In Alabama, my maternal grandmother also caught the flu as a teen. She was thankful to survive, but lost all her hair!
  • Don: Pearl Cable tells the story that when her daughter, Velma, contracted pneumonia as an infant, Dr. Riter soaked some linens with Vicks Vaporub and wrapped her torso in those. He told them not to remove them for a couple of weeks. Velma was, in fact, cured.
  • Barbara: My Dad was born in Waynesville in Nov. 1918. My Granny Nichols told us of giving birth with the whole family having the flu. No one would come in their house. They would bring food to the porch. Granny would put the dirty laundry outside. A neighbor would come and boil the clothes over an outside fire. I think that it was only a miracle of God that my Dad survived. My Dad was her last baby. There were 3 older girls. They all lived through that horrible time.

Since I work in a public setting with lots of folks coming in and out all day long I’ve been washing my hands so much they’re raw. I’ve got so paranoid about getting sick that if someone comes in my office I wipe down the area where they sat with an antiseptic wipe and wash my hands after they leave.

I hope none of you nor none of us get the flu!


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  • Reply
    Emily Cole
    March 2, 2019 at 10:04 pm

    It has been crazy this year, Tipper! My 2nd grade classroom had 8 students in attendance on Friday, and I usually have 18! So ten students were out sick, and four parents let me know their kids tested positive for flu. I feel like I have a huge target painted on my back and I’ll be the next one… but so far I feel fine! I wiped everything down multiple times this week, and have been washing hands non-stop too. Here’s hoping I won’t get it this year. Best of luck to you!

  • Reply
    Leon Estes
    February 8, 2018 at 5:19 am

    People talking about the Spanish Flu Pandemic reminded me of my Dad. He was 17 that year, turned 18 in August. Grandpa, Dad, 2 other aunts have moved to South Dakota to live with Aunt Belle and Uncle George. Dad said one time that he nursed everyone till he was the last to catch it. Another miracle that I am here today! Since Dad lived, I live also!
    One year about 35 years ago I caught “Legionaire’s Disease” There were so many sick people in our city that my M.D. did not think I would be able get a bed if he sent me to a hospital. I went to bed, was attended to by my wife, and after I recovered (3 weeks), he shared with me that he suspected I had Legionaire’s Disease but didn’t tell me before I got well! I don’t want that one ever again!

  • Reply
    February 2, 2018 at 8:32 pm

    Tipper, call me odd but I just can’t understand why the government and doctors are so all fired ready to give folks FREE flu shots when most folks, including veterans have to fight for everything else..?! Seems that there are a lot of other doctors, like Dr Mercola, that think that folks with low Vit D blood levels seem to get the flu most often. Since studies indicate that flu shots efficacy rate is so low and Vit D studies are promising, they recommend that we get our vit D blood levels checked to determine if we need to supplement it. Vit D deficiencies are so common that their immunity factors for all types of diseases might be quite impaired. I was really suppressed at their findings and thought they might be useful to folks.

  • Reply
    Lee Mears
    February 2, 2018 at 6:10 pm

    From WIKI : “The 1918 flu pandemic (Jan1918 – Dec 1920) was an unusually deadly influenza pandemic, the first of the two pandemics involving H1N1 influenza virus. It infected 500 million people around the world, including people on remote Pacific islands and in the Arctic, and resulted in the deaths of 50 to 100 million (three to five percent of the world’s population), making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history.” “WW I 1917– The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I, was around 40 million.”
    Granny said they missed having flu by grace of God. She had two of her 4 children at that time. In 2015 I thought I had flu in Sept. Fever and was sweating and soaking the beds, changing sides, then changing beds, then laying towels to lay on beds. I was sure I was dying and was all I could do to move. Short version, I had West Nile Virus, not the flu. NO flu in Sept.
    I live in neighborhood with retired chemists two of which told me that the popular hand gel everyone uses doesn’t kill anything..??? Seems to me it would have to kill ‘something’ but I’m no scientist. (Just for the record.)
    I say wash, wash and wash and try to stay away from people. Drink water and chicken broth if sick. And don’t forget to sterilize toothbrushes. It doesn’t hurt to put a little clorox in dishwasher too . I did have flu once and thought was going to die then too.
    Another strange fact I’ve been told, the flu virus travels in COLD air. ???? Do we have a chance???
    Everyone take all care you can.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    February 2, 2018 at 4:26 pm

    My Great Grandmother Ida Smiley Breedlove and her two youngest sons all died in 1918 during the Spanish Flu Pandemic. A cousin of mine who worked for the CDC published an article about their deaths online. Several more if not all the family had the Flu but survived. It was thought that her oldest son who was in the Army brought the germs home with him when he came home on leave as he was hospitalized when he returned to base and shortly afterwards the family started coming down with the flu. As a “Cemetery Walker” I see many graves where fairly young people died in 1918 and I wonder if they were victims of the Pandemic, this was a very sad time in our country.

  • Reply
    February 2, 2018 at 4:17 pm

    A cold is caused by a bacterial infection. Something you can see in a microscope. The flu is caused by a virus. You can not see this in a normal microscope. You will need a special microscope called an electron microscope and even then it might be too small to be seen even by that.

    They both will make you feel like death warmed over. There are only a few things that will help you over the long haul. Get plenty of rest. Stay in bed and don’t exert yourself (don’t work yourself to death), Wash your hands and face every 4 to 6 hours. This will keep the nasty bugs of bacteria or virus away from your mouth, nose and eyes; and will make you feel better about yourself. Drink hot tea with honey and lemon. The hot tea will cut through the crap in your throat, mucus, the lemon is acidic and will kill any bacteria in your throat and the honey will sooth your throat and coat it with a thin layer of sugar. This will prevent any increase viral or bacterial growth or at the very least retard the rapid growth of the same. When you drink hot tea, you will increase your fluids so that you will not become dehydrated. You may not feel like eating anything, but, you must eat something so stick with the tried and true – CHICKEN SOUP. That is right, your grandma had it right, Chicken soup is a great way of fighting illness. The hot oil from the chicken cuts through all that crud in your throat, provides the nutrients you need to fight any viral infections and helps improve your kidney, liver, and spleen output. That is to say it helps these organs do their job and help fight any infections.

    Also any citrus fluids like lemon juice, orange juice, elderberry juice, cranberry juice and so on will provide antioxidants that your body will need to fight off these viral and bacteria infections.

    When in bed stay warm as possible and get some well deserve sleep as much as possible. If you are sick try not to spread it to others. If you have to cough then cough into a handkerchief or off to the side in a downward direction. No sense of sharing your illness with others. Hope this helps and that y’all get better quickly. God Bless.

  • Reply
    February 2, 2018 at 2:47 pm

    That ole flu stuff is sure miserable. The Doctor wanted me to take the Flu Shot awhile back and I told him “No”. It’s been eight years or so since I took the Flu Shot and got it anyway. They said that I had it before I took the shot, but I still don’t know. Anyway, I ain’t had it yet, thank the Good Lord. …Ken

  • Reply
    February 2, 2018 at 1:45 pm

    I carry my own pen in case I need sign something. We wave at each other at church rather than shaking hands or hugging.
    Several years ago my wife had the flu. I had some outside work to do. I got her on the sofa with a blanket, plenty of water and her phone. I told her not to try to get up – if she needed anything to call my phone. I came in and found her unconscious on the floor in another room. She had gone looking for lip gloss, fallen and hit her head and chin on furniture and somehow bruised her leg. When someone at church asked her what happened I answered, “She was disobedient.” I took her arm and led her away before she could explain further.

  • Reply
    February 2, 2018 at 12:07 pm

    My great grandmother, Mariah Lester, died of Influenza in 1918 and left a whole houseful of children behind. Two little girls were very young and placed with other family members; they did not survive until adulthood. The older boys seemed to do well, and they were scattered about and raised by caring relatives. That was a major feat considering those were the days of large families, and almost everybody already had their hands full. I recently had the privilege of visiting the cemetery where she rested, and a caring family member had recently bought markers to replace the field stone markers on their small graves.

    When I worked in a hospital setting, I was constantly catching something bad. It is not so bad anymore. I get the flu shot, and I go down a different aisle if I hear somebody hacking in a store. Also, lots of hand washing and hand sanitizer after human contact. We have long had family policy of no visiting when sick. I have been called a germaphobic, but I literally shudder when I see any and everybody kissing around on a baby.

    I must research that Elderberry thing!

  • Reply
    Stephen T.
    February 2, 2018 at 11:19 am

    Too late, Tipper. New Year’s Eve Day, a strange feeling crept through my body starting in my legs and settling in my head. New Year’s Day I had a full-blown head cold. Next day I went to work but the following 2 days I was home in bed. The second day home I slept all day. Thank goodness my college sophomore son was still on Christmas break. He prepared and served herbal teas and light snacks though I was not really much aware of his kindness. My voice and sense of taste had vanished but I had an abundance of congestion and little aches. The next day, unsafe to drive and still feeling miserable, my wife drove me to work so I could attend to mission-critical tasks. After 3 hours at the office, I was spent, went home and crawled back to bed. Blessed with good health, in 25 years, I’ve missed only about 15 days of work due to illness – three and a half of them were in early January 2018. It was not until about January 17 that I felt mostly normal.

    Last week, my wife, a nurse at the University of Kentucky hospital reported to me that some 55 people in Kentucky had died of the flu. This year’s bug is extremely potent. I pray that if you have not already been afflicted, that Blind Pig’s readers, their loved ones, and neighbors can avoid it.

  • Reply
    February 2, 2018 at 10:46 am

    The young lady (I can usually tell them apart but not in this picture) looks like she sees someone, perhaps a small child, sitting beside her that we cannot see, don’t she?

  • Reply
    February 2, 2018 at 10:43 am

    Every year, I’m out traipsin’ in the woods and ditches here in Kentuck gathering herbs and weeds and such. My most prized find is always elderberry, both berries and flowers. I make an elixer that my hubby and I take faithfully after any contact with others. Don’t get the flu nor do we get the flu shot. We’re almost 70… works well. Old ways are still the best ways as far as we’re concerned.

  • Reply
    February 2, 2018 at 10:32 am

    I was in the grocery store yesterday and a significant percentage of the people were wearing masks. I don’t but I always grab a handful of wipes on the way in and wipe down the buggy. More germs are transferred to you via your hands than through the air. Most people are in too big a hurry to get them.
    I try to keep my hands away from my mouth when I have to touch people or surfaces away from home. It’s tough to resist putting your hand over your mouth when you sneeze, scratch your nose or rub your eye until you can get home and thoroughly wash your hands. I’m like that year round though.

  • Reply
    Dee Parks
    February 2, 2018 at 10:30 am

    The only time I had the flu was in January 1969. My husband and I came down with it at the same time. We had fever and aching in every bone in our bodies that kept us in bed for a week. After that week we went back to work still coughing but at least the fever and aching of bones was gone. I don’t ever want that again. In researching my families genealogy, I noticed I had a family where the father and mother died on same day in 1918. In talking with one of my Aunts she mentioned that she had the flu in 1918 and so did her mother. I dug a little further and found the sad story of this family that lived in Arkansas. The father died from the flu and two of the children had gone to town to get a casket when the mother died from the flu and they had to send another child to tell them they needed two caskets. Don’t know what the Elderberry is but I got my flu shot and I am trying to stay away from people with colds or the flu.

  • Reply
    Cheryl W.
    February 2, 2018 at 10:22 am

    My neighbor and I scour the county for elderberry. We had a stash of syrup built up over the last two years, and currently only have 8 ounces left because of so many family and friends needing it this year. I don’t think it prevents the flu, but it does build up your immune system and seems to shorten the length of time being sick significantly. At the first sign of a cough or congestion I start making tea from it twice a day with a little local honey mixed with it. This was the first time I was able to nip the flu/raw throat in the bud at the first sign of not feeling right and it shortened the illness to about a week and a half vs a month. If you can’t make your own elderberry syrup you can buy it online or in a health food store. I do caution everyone to look up side effects, interactions and warnings. According to WebMD, Autoimmune diseases” such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or other conditions: Elderberry might cause the immune system to become more active, and this could increase the symptoms of autoimmune diseases. If you have one of these conditions, it’s best to avoid using elderberry.

  • Reply
    February 2, 2018 at 9:19 am

    I started coughing uncontrollably Tuesday evening and spent all day Wednesday in bed. My doctor’s office was able to work me in at 6:15 yesterday evening. I tested positive for Strain B, the one that likes to turn in to pneumonia… When I called for an appointment, I told her I thought I had bronchitis. My temperature has not been much over 100 and I’m not having too many body aches. I have honestly felt worse in the past and never went to the doctor. This time it was the weakness, hallucinations and sleeping off and on for 30 plus hours that concerned me. I am overly cautious when I am shopping or around people, but the doctor said another seemingly healthy person can spread the flu a day before they even know they are sick. Thank God I got the flu shot!
    I left the doctor’s office without any prescriptions. She said it was too late to take Tamiflu. Then she told me that studies showed that elderberry was more effective than Tamiflu! I couldn’t wait to get home and pass that information along, as I had never heard that. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share with your readers. Good luck finding it though. We are burning up the phone and have yet to find any within a 25 mile radius.

  • Reply
    Glenda Beall
    February 2, 2018 at 9:19 am

    I made my own sanitizer. I filled a small spray bottle half full of alcohol a half with water. I carry it with me at all times in a small plastic bag. I use it on everything I touch and on my hands so I do not have to wash them so often. I also wear a mask when around people. I feel like I am a germaphobe, but I think it is necessary to do all I can to protect my health. Tipper, I hope you don’t get sick.

  • Reply
    February 2, 2018 at 9:15 am

    Had flu 3 weeks ago. In bed 3 days. Still don’t have much energy , and a little bit of a cough still remains. First bout with the flu since 1969.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 2, 2018 at 9:00 am

    Alright so far. That Spanish influenza in 1918 or so was sure a killer. My wife’s great-grandma and one of her sons died within about a day of each other and were buried in a common grave.

    I don’t usually take the flu shot, only twice that I remember. It is just an unreasoning prejudice I guess but the ‘cocktail’ of numerous strains disturbs me. Plus they have to estimate each year which ones are going to be the worst. I heard somewhere the estimate was off this year and a significant proportion of those getting the flu shot could still get the flu.

  • Reply
    Eleanor Loos
    February 2, 2018 at 8:50 am

    And what would that “elderberrry” be? Is it a vitamin capsule, a liquid of sorts, the real live fruit (if you could find them!) Just wondering what that flu prevention would be.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 2, 2018 at 8:01 am

    Tip, I had the flu once in my life, I was sick for a month! Papaw Tony and the Deer Hunter had it to. I was the sickest because I had a sinus infection too! This was back when the Deer Hunter was 4 or 5 years old. We were a sorry lot. We couldn’t do anything but lay on the couches and feel miserable. When we went to the doctor the called all three of us back together. Every evening one of who felt best (and I use that term loosely) fixed scrambled eggs and toast and we all tried to eat at least a little.
    I don’t ever want any more of that!

  • Reply
    February 2, 2018 at 5:41 am

    And don’t forget to take your Elderberry Everyday.

  • Reply
    February 2, 2018 at 5:39 am

    And don’t forget to take your Elderberry Everyday. My current job is collections with the Coop and going up and knocking on doors you meet and see all kind of sickness, just yesterday met a lady who had just got out of the hospital with the flu, and another man who was just getting over it. Keeping sanitation wipes and taking the elderberry is my defense, hope it continues to hold up. Our Daughters Doctor appointment was canceled because the flu cases at UAB is crazy, they said if she’s stable, stay away until end of March.

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