Monday, April 19, 2010
Sammie would know how to make poultices to relieve pain, help heal burns and possibly, even, to prevent pregnancy. She’d make plaster of mustard to “ease the ache of bruises, arthritis, and pleurisy.” She might even apply sugar to wounds, once commonly known to dry out a fresh wound and inhibit the growth of bacteria. (page 143).
Cholera was the most common and the deadliest disease to sweep through a wagon train or settlement. It wasn’t understood at the time that cholera was caused by contaminated drinking water. The best way to fight the disease was to replace fluids ‘volume to volume” as the patient suffered from severe diarrhea. However, this treatment was not well known. Opium, if available, was also given to “relieve the pain and slow down the increased bowel action and cramps,” (page 80).
Diphtheria, measles, small pox and scarlet fever were all deadly diseases, especially among children, with no cures but to wait it out. Diphtheria, in particular, was the most dreaded. Highly contagious, a single case could start an epidemic, resulting in a high number of children dying when a “pseudo-membrane in the throat and pharynx…obstructed the windpipe and shut off air to the lungs.” If the child survived this, she might still die from heart failure, caused when a potent toxin was secreted that effected the heart, (page 264).
Anna Kathryn Lanier
Where Tumbleweeds Hang Their Hats