Mizzou Doctor Gives Advice on Colds, 1921

Wash your hands, wear a mask, and avoid patent medicines, friends. As we head toward winter, here’s some medical advice on colds from the experts at the University of Missouri, as printed in the Skidmore News (Skidmore, Missouri), October 27, 1921, page 8:

M. U. Doctor Tells How to Cure Colds.

Common so-called “colds” are the most widespread and least dangerous of all infections, according to Dr. M. P. Ravenel of the School of Medicine of the University of Missouri, president of the American Public Health Association. The term, “catching cold” hides a tremendous amount of ignorance and relieves many a careless physician from criticism.

Many people believe that exposure to cold and drafts produces this trouble, hence the term, “catching cold.” As an actual matter of fact, a thermometer will show that instead of having caught cold we really have fever. If a person has made a hot-house plant of himself, then exposure to cold and drafts may do some harm, but more colds are caught by going into poorly ventilated and crowded rooms than by exposure to cold. Under these conditions there is oftentimes a dryness of the nose and throat, which certainly makes it more liable to infection. The normal secretion of our noses is a protection against infection, the flow being outward and washing out dirt and germs. The action of this secretion is readily seen when one’s nose is blown after a dusty road trip. Exposure to drafts in a person who is not accustomed to an abundance of fresh air sometimes produces a similar result.

“Colds” are unquestionably contagious. Just what germ produces them is not positively known. It seems certain that several different kinds have the power to produce “colds,” since the “cold” is only an inflammation of the nasal mucous membrane, and is not a specific disease in the sense that typhoid fever or tuberculosis are. “Colds” occur in epidemics and are spread by direct contact of one person with another. Sneezing is one way in which “colds” are usually spread. Mothers who use the same handkerchief to blow the noses of a number of children spread the disease from one to another.

While colds are not considered dangerous in themselves in the ordinary person, they have a very bad effect in those who have consumption or other wasting diseases. Further than this, they cause a tremendous loss of time and waste of energy. There is no more reason for “catching a cold” than for catching smallpox. There is more excuse for people have not learned the importance of avoiding colds.

Patent medicines under the name of catarrh snuffs and balms should be avoided. They are apt to contain cocaine or epinephrine, both of which should be used only on the advice of a competent physician.

For the treatment of colds a saline cathartic with one or two days of very light diet is advisable. If a person can spare the time, a hot foot bath and rest in bed for a day will do much good.

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