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Chuck Hinman: IJMA. Time Changes Things

Time Changes Things. Chuck says time has changed many medical practices in our time. Two early readers comment on his four essentials in the home medical cabinet.
Next earlier Chuck Hinman column - 'Making Do'

By Chuck Hinman

Time Changes Things

Man, you can say that again, especially if you have been around for 85 years like I have. For example, how many of your great grandchildren are home from school for two weeks (or more) with the measles; or who of those kids are quarantined along with their families with the highly contagious smallpox, mumps, or chickenpox. I would guess the answer is "not one."

People our age lived before a vaccine was developed to prevent your getting these diseases. Your school teacher brought your (and your siblings') books to your home and your Mom became your teacher for a couple of weeks. Your front door was posted with a big red sign warning visitors to stay away -- there are sick people inside with a contagious disease.

Home remedies, not doctors visits, were common

Another thing that has changed is the frequency of doctor's office visits and prescriptions written. I probably could count on one hand the number of times I was in a doctor's office in the first twenty years of my life. A sneeze or the sniffles was NOT worthy of a visit to the doctor's office or going to the pharmacy with a hand full of prescriptions. The only 'medicine' in our medicine cabinet was a can of Watkins or Raleigh salve, bottles of iodine, mercurochrome, and Vick's ointment.

If we had a bad-bad cold in the winter, at bedtime Mom greased our chests with Vick's. She then covered our chests with strips of cotton flannel. That was held in place inside our long-johns. The fumes and the burning sensation on our skin made us WANT to get well! Later Mom told us doctors never ascribed any medical value to this 'witchcraft medicine' but what do they know? This had been practiced for generations in the Hinman family.

Barefoot hazards, scratches, and stings treated by Dr. Mom

We went barefoot in the summertime and frequently stepped on a nail. We never heard of tetanus. We soaked our foot in hot water. Mom doused the wound with iodine (OUCH), daubed it with salve, and wrapped it with strips of a bed-sheet that had seen better days. I don't know how we escaped infections unless we were just too ornery.

We had our share of cat scratches, bee and wasp stings, bunged-up knees and elbow from falling off our bicycles, but nothing 'Dr. Mom' couldn't fix.

No braces for teeth, no hospitalization for tonsillectomies

We never had braces to straighten our teeth. Our small town dentist drilled out our cavities with a foot-powered drill. I appreciate improvements in dental equipment as much as anyone but in defense of cigar chompin' Dr. Gleeton and his antiquated equipment, I have more than one half of my original teeth, a little crooked but no one knows if I keep my mouth shut.

Tonsils were removed in the doctor's office, not the hospital. It was no big deal and the tonsils were presented to you in a bottle of formaldehyde for not crying.

Time has changed many other medical practices in our lifetime. These few will give you something to reminisce over at dinner with your old friends.

Early responses ask where are Jack Daniel's and Epsom Salts

PS I stand corrected. An early response to my story 120 -- Time Changes Things.

I had mentioned four 'medicines' always found in the Hinman medicine cabinet such as Watkins salve, iodine, Vick's, etc. This reader said I intentionally fibbed and left out the most important of all cough remedies -- that being a 5th of Jack Daniel's (booze for you Baptists). She said it was well known to cut the 'crud' better than anything and made it a joy to be 'coming down' with something. Another reader said I left out Epsom Salts that was good for everything including cleaning white wall tires?? Ye gads -- I didn't know that! Thanks for your responses. -- Chuck Hinman

Written by Chuck Hinman, November 2007. PS emailed 29 November 2007.

Editor's Note: In a revision emailed 12 July 2010 Chuck changed '85 years' to 'a long time' and deleted 'cigar chompin.'

This story was posted on 2014-06-29 05:30:50
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