Saturday, March 10, 2012

Curing the Ague

During the 19th Century, the ague meant a fever, usually recurring, accompanied by chills.  Mainly it signified malaria and sometimes conditions difficult to diagnose in those days.  Dr. C. V. Porter, physician and historian living at Viroqua in Wisconsin, wrote these interesting observations sometime in the earlier part of the 20th Century when, apparently, such fevers were no longer common along the great river.

"Little does this generation know of the terrible chills and high fever, 105. or 6 degrees and the profuse sweating that made up a single day of the ague. 'Nothing but the ague' and to have it for months was terrible, and what fools we were not to adopt the cold water treatment.  Emmet Sterling, raftsman on the river, contracted ague.  He got dope from half the towns on the Mississippi and still he shook.  In desperation, at the height of his fever, when the skin was hot and dry, he got in between two logs of his raft and hung in the water. an hour or more and his ague left him forever. 

I was called one October night 40 years ago to Johnstown to see a worthless fellow delerious from malarial fever.  When I got there I found that Uncle Henry Lester had brought from the spring a pail of cold water, wrung out a sheet and wrapped the fellow up in it and had kept the sheet wet for an hour or more.  I found his [the patient] temperature normal and he was asleep.  He had no more fever for a week and then had dumb ague [lacking the characteristic chills].  To prevent this later, I took 2 grains of strychnine, two grains of arsenic, 40 grains of quinine and 30 grains of sulphate of iron, mixed them and made the mass into 80 pills and gave two pills after each meal.  I had ten cases of remittent fever that fall on the ridges [river bluffs?] and promptly cured them that way.  I gave the pills, six each day, on the 5th. 6th and 7th days after the last chill; on the 11th, 12th, 13th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 26th and 27th days and the malaria was done for."

The Courier of Prairie du Chien ran an ad in 1857 that exhorted:
Cure the Fever & Ague
Use Brower & Van Duzer's
Ague Mixture, 50 cents

One wonders what that potion contained.

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