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Hartselle Enquirer

The Woes of Winter

A visit to the cold remedies department at Wal-Mart last week reminded me that winter is in full swing. Customers filled the aisles hunting a cure for the crud—sore throat, runny nose and a hacking cough.

With a bottle of super strength cough medicine in hand, I wondered how us kids were able to overcome an upper respiratory infection when over the counter medications were not available to us.

Generally speaking, people who lived in rural Clay County where I grew up didn’t go see a doctor when they had a bad cold, as long as they could draw a breath. The nearest hospital was 30 miles away and the county had only two medical doctors. They saw patients in their own homes but getting to them was a problem for most folks since they didn’t own a motor vehicle. However, both made house calls in emergencies and to deliver babies.

My mother was the self-made nurse in our home. She had a home remedy for whatever ailed any one of her seven kids and believed an ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure. A sniffle, sneeze or scratchy throat called for an aspirin tablet, bowl of hot soup, a gargle wit h warm salty water and bed rest. There was no excuse for missing school unless fever was involved. A poultice of salve and herbs was attached to the chest to ward off congestion in the lungs. A teaspoon of sugar with three drops of kerosene was given at bedtime to treat the croup. A sniff of hot Vicks salve at bedtime prevented breathing through the mouth while sleeping.

The presence of bad colds in the classroom made attention to learning difficult to say the least. A large coal heater, located in the back of the classroom, was the source of heat. When it was hot, students seated near it suffered from being too hot while students in front of the room were cold. The smell of poultices mixed with nose blowing and coughing was also unpleasant and a deterrent to learning.

Thankfully, today’s students have greater access to the marvels of modern medicine along with a safer and more comfortable learning environment. Nevertheless, the common cold remains with us as one of the woes of winter, and there is no quick cure in sight. Prevention seems to be the best cure just as it was many years ago.