It wasn’t all that long ago that insect bites were thought to be best treated with raw onions or mud.
So claims a “sportsman’s encyclopedia” that was published 110 years ago as a guide for “anyone venturing into the woods or into the backyard.” The advice about using mud to cope with insect bites, suggested more than a century ago, seems quaint today; but not that long ago folks believed that in an emergency (no pharmacy nearby) one could get relief from insect bites by daubing them with mud.
The encyclopedia also claims that an effective treatment for a sore throat is bacon or pork, “tied on (the throat) with a dry stocking,” and treating inflamed eyes with raw meat (“bind on and leave overnight”).
I don’t recall hearing about odd treatments like this when I was growing up, but some hints in the encyclopedia for treating minor ailments seem familiar – blowing tobacco smoke in an ear when it’s aching, for example, is one treatment I saw being used.
Other first aid suggestions found in the old book truly seem strange – wrapping minor cuts with paper and a mixture of flour and salt, treating someone struck by lightning by immersing them in running water, making poultices for chest colds out of a mixture of “common soap and sugar,” and making poultices by mixing bread, flour, mustard and vinegar.
On the positive side, the encyclopedia mentions a common kitchen ingredient that’s noted today for having dozens of effective uses. Baking soda is touted in the book as a treatment for burns, when made into a paste by combining it with flour and fat or oil. Baking soda is also recommended for scalds, to relieve poison ivy and combining baking soda with water to ease sore and blistered feet.
Now, forgetting for a moment those old-time first aid treatments, the encyclopedia issues a warning about the moon that’s interesting. Did you know you can get moonstroke and it’s almost as bad as sunstroke? I never heard of this until I read the encyclopedia, but here’s a warning it issues about the moon: “Don’t sleep with the moon shining on your face. You can get moonstroke and it’s almost as bad as sunstroke.”
Under the heading “Outdoors Doctor,” the encyclopedia suggests one should treat diarrhoea by applying warm bandages to the stomach; or one could make a drink by mixing “browned flour,” with two teaspoons of vinegar and a teaspoon of salt. For poisoning (not recommended) there’s a simple treatment – cause vomiting by swallowing small pieces of soap or tobacco.
All of the first aid treatments offered by the old encyclopedia belong to the folklore category, but there is one recommendation that sort of makes sense, and I quote: “Keep head cool by placing wet green leaves inside your hat”. I tried this after I saw an older generation angler do just that. The effect was short-lived, but it worked. Kind of messy though.