Some of the medical advice given in the book is still very useful today, although some of the advice for treating some diseases is now thankfully obsolete thanks to modern immunisation – the standard treatment for rabies if someone had been bitten by a rabid dog was to cauterise the bite site with a white-hot iron (thanks, Lois Pasteur!). Some of the advice, on the other hand, is better today for entertainment value. The following is a selection of the advice given in this book.
– Bleeding from a smaller wound (not from a severed artery or a vein) can be stanched either by holding ice to the site, or by applying a poultice made from equal parts of flour and salt, which should be “bound down with a cloth” to the wound site. For larger wounds (arterial) the book recommends using a tourniquet; this method is not recommended nowadays and pressure should be applied instead.
– On the topic of daily exercise, the book is very quotable: “Exercise invigorates the brain, expands the lungs, quickens the circulation, and braces the nerves…The importance of sufficient daily exercise to the health of intellectual men [sic] cannot be exaggerated.” The book recommends gardening and horse-riding to women, while for men it recommends boxing as being the best exercise. Interestingly, it also states that “intellectual employment” (i.e. white-collar desk jobs) should not be done for more than seven hours a day – don’t we all wish we could follow this advice!
– Eyestrain can be treated, according to the author of this book, by splashing them with cold water mixed with just enough brandy to make the eyes sting slightly (ouch!). However, cold water alone was also greatly recommended and is more advisable.
– To lose weight, this book recommends that the following foods should be avoided: fat bacon, fat ham, butter, cream, sugar, fat on meat, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, beetroot, rice, arrowroot, sago, tapioca, macaroni, vermicelli, semolina, custard pastry and “puddings of all kinds, and sweet cakes”. This is still good advice, although most people these days would not ban carrots, parsnips and beetroot. Along with exercise, drinking a small glass of seawater mixed with milk, bathing in seawater and Turkish baths were also recommended for losing weight. If you get hold of the book, make sure you read the accompanying advice on “How to grow fat” for its amusement value and maybe a glimpse into a saner time when stick-thin models were not held up as the epitome of beauty.
– Stings (presumably bees and wasps) can e treated with a paste of wood ash and water, or else baking soda and water.
– Corns, chilblains and bunions can be treated by dabbing on iodine twice a day “with a feather.” My guess is that the feather is optional and a cotton bud would do instead.
– A broth made of celery boiled in milk was reputed to be a good treatment for rheumatism and gout, and was also supposed to be a “great comfort” for “nervous” (i.e. stressed out) people.
– Indigestion seems to have been quite a concern to our ancestors, so the book contains plenty of advice for avoiding and treating it. The most pleasant advice in this regard is the suggestion that mealtimes should be accompanied by pleasant conversation to aid digestion. Chewing thoroughly instead of trying to bolt a meal down in a hurry (which it calls the “peculiarly American 10-minutes-for-refreshments vice”) was also recommended.
– To help a teething child, apply shaved ice. This will soothe the gums with the chill but will melt quickly and have no risk of choking.
– To remove particles of dust and dirt in the eyes, use a camels’ hair paint brush dipped in water. Raise the eyelid, then gently brush across the eyeball.
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