Surviving the flu in old-time Phoenix - 1918
As I write this, I'm on my way to surviving the flu season of 2018. I'm trying to do everything right, sitting here at my computer with the humidifier going, sipping Dasani bottled water. I've got my Nyquil handy again for tonight, and if necessary Luden's Cough Drops, and WalMart 'Tussin. Come to think of it, I've surrounded myself with everything I could think of to minimize the pain of living through the flu, and since I had a fever for about two days I had plenty of time to think about how it must have been for the people of old-time Phoenix.
In 1918 there were a lot of people who weren't as lucky as I've been. In fact, 50 million people died from the flu that year worldwide. Yes, 50 million. And as I was freezing and burning with fever a couple of days ago I know that my little brain strayed over into thinking that those who lived were not the lucky ones. Sorry, fever scrambles your brain, I'm OK now.
Of course, I had Tylenol to reduce my fever, and aspirin would have been available in 1918 (it had been invented in 1899). I can't imagine what it would have felt like without a fever medication, but I'm sure a lot of people, especially tough guys, like me, refused any meds and just toughed it out, maybe taking a snort of whiskey. I have no idea. I'm a tough guy, and even with the Tylenol, two days of fever had me mewling and puking like an infant.
Just like today, there were a lot of people who didn't understand how all of this worked. Medical understanding of germs and infections that were from things that were invisible was the latest technology saving lives in World War I, but it didn't mean that the average person understood about infection, and the spread of a virus.
I guess just sitting here now thinking about it makes me glad to be here in the 21st Century, where I can just visit the past, and then go have some NyQuil. I'd like to believe that I would be have been tough enough to survive 100 years ago, but probably not.
Image at the top of this post: Excerpt from https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84020558/1918-10-26/ed-1/seq-10.pdf
More about the influenza epidemic of 1918 here https://www.archives.gov/exhibits/influenza-epidemic/records-list.html
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Posted by Brad Hall