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Texas | Columns | "Wandering"

Children's Meds

by Wanda Orton
Wanda Orton

Back in my day, mothers were the doctors in the house, treating colds and coughs in the early stages and trying their best to prevent anything major from developing.

Whenever I started to get a cold, Dr. Mom would squeeze a lemon, heat a cup of water almost to the boiling point and add a dash of baking soda to the mix. Then she would tell me to drink the fizzler as fast as possible.

There.

Feel better?

I don't know if it was the hot water, soda or lemon -- or maybe something psychological - but it seemed to work.

A bad cough with a cold called for more drastic measures, namely a Vicks vapor rub over my chest. Afterward, smelling like a menthol machine, I would bundle up for a good night's sleep. The day after, I was in recovery. For a sore throat, I got swabbed. Mother called it "mopping" the throat.

She used a long, medicated cotton swab to glide gently down my throat -- knowing just when to "stop the mop." I hated it, but it usually worked.

Also, I must mention the most unpleasant, so-called cure-all in the medicine cabinet: castor oil. Yuk. Ugh. Only thing worse would be mineral oil.

Trained in first aid by Red Cross instructors during World War II, most mothers how to take care of minor injuries, scrapes, insect bites, etc. If it bled, mom led, armed with gauze, tape and stinging methylate. And even if we weren't hurt, moms would practice first-aid skills on their captive patients, wrapping and taping the way they would if ever they had to attend to the war wounded. For years I kept my mother's first-aid books as a kind of wartime memento.

In the 1940s, vaccinations targeted two diseases, diphtheria and smallpox. Like a badge of honor, elementary school kids showed that dotted ring on their arms to prove they were safe from small pox.

Diphtheria shots came first, being a requirement for entering school. The vaccination venue was the Humble Oil & Refining Co. Community House where a public health nurse needled every fearful one of us.

As for the usual childhood plagues like chickenpox, measles, mumps and whooping cough, we roughed it. Sorry, no vaccine available yet.

Polio ranked as the most dreaded disease of that era pre-dating Salk and Sabin vaccines.

We called polio "infantile paralysis," a misnomer because the disease hit all ages, most notably our president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

One of the worst polio epidemics in the nation's history occurred in the summer after I graduated from high school in 1952. Among fatalities in my hometown, Baytown, were a hairdresser and a college professor.

Growing up, we always harbored a vague, uneasy fear of polio, but our parents were paranoid. During the long hot summers, they tried to keep us away from crowds, and when polio reached an epidemic stage, many children were not allowed to go swimming or to the movies.

Whenever our legs ached, moms would panic and reach for a bottle of alcohol to rub our legs, vigorously, desperately, fearfully.

Pneumonia, known long ago as lung fever, was something else to fear.

One of the few times I saw our family doctor was when I had whooping cough in the first grade and pneumonia in high school. The bout with pneumonia sent me to the hospital for a week.



© Wanda Orton Baytown Sun Columnist
"Wandering" October 1, 2017 column


Wanda Orton's "Wandering"

  • Talking Toddler in Grocery Cart 9-2-17
  • Alcalde, not alcade 8-3-17
  • Walking 7-16-17
  • Boat races in bay area go back to the 1800s 7-1-17
  • Sayings 5-23-17

    See more »

  • Related Topics:
    Mothers | Health | Columns

    Wanda Orton's "Wandering"

  • Talking Toddler in Grocery Cart 9-2-17
  • Alcalde, not alcade 8-3-17
  • Walking 7-16-17
  • Boat races in bay area go back to the 1800s 7-1-17
  • Sayings 5-23-17

    See more »


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