Common treatments

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Features, Issue 2 (Mar/Apr 2009), Volume 17

Gallagher's snuff ad (Belfast Newsletter, June/July 1918).

Gallagher’s snuff ad (Belfast Newsletter, June/July 1918).

In the absence of any one effective medicine or vaccine, doctors used abroad range of Bovril notice (Irish Independent, 23 December 1918) treatments for the symptoms of influenza. These includedcalomel (as a purgative), oxygen, stimulants (including strychnine),salicylates, quinine, trional or some preparation of opium forsleeplessness, gargles prepared from a tincture of creosote or asolution of permanganate of potash, cough remedies and linseedpoultices. Punch made from hot water, sugar and whiskey was prescribedto relieve pain and alleviate breathing difficulties.

Bovril notice (Irish Independent, 23 December 1918)

Bovril notice (Irish Independent, 23 December 1918)

Whiskey was alsoused as a prophylactic. Over-the-counter panaceas added influenza tothe list of ailments they claimed to cure. Phosferine, advertised as acure for war-inflicted nervous disorders, now claimed to cure flu.Bovril and Oxo were alleged to fortify the body against the onslaughtof disease. Dublin’s only homeopathic pharmacy, Hanna’s, advertisedgelsemium as a cure for flu. Ultimately, the best weapon against the disease was bed rest and good nursing.

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