Folk Cures from the Flu of 1918

flu_afp001a1With rumors swirling through the airwaves and splattered on newspapers across the nation, the Swine Flu is grabbing the public’s attention.  While it appears that it will not turn into the pandemic that was originally forecast, it is interesting to look back at some of the folk cures that were adopted by people during the last pandemic–the flu of 1918.

A woman who nursed the sick in 1918 passed along the following wisdom:  cut an onion in half, covering the cut surface with sugar to draw out the juice.  Place onion in the oven to warm.  The resulting syrup which is derived from the mixture of onion juice and sugar is used to cure the flu. (FA 10  1.9.4.1.1)

One interviewee recalled that during the flu season of 1918 he had to wear a “package of acifidity [sic] around his neck . . . and it looked to me like a plug of tobacco.”  (FA 10 1.9.4.4.1)

Another woman recalled that “during the flu epidemic in 1918, when she was 12 years old, a doctor told her mother to pour [sulphur] powder on top of the old fashioned stove several times a day and for the family to live outdoors as much as possible.  The sulphur sparked on the stove as it was applied, and the family skied, went sleigh riding and spent hours our of doors and escaped the dread epidemic.  The nest year they moved into a small town, the family caught the flu and several members nearly died.” (FA 10 1.9.4.6.1)

If none of these catch your fancy, you might want to resort to a common practice dating to the early days of Sanpete County–“a person should never change his underwear and . . . only bath[e] on Saturday night.” (FA 10 1.9.4.3.1)

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