People dropped whisky into their noses to treat Spanish flu. Here's what else they took that would raise eyebrows today

theconversation.com
5 min read
fairly easy
Doctors, nurses, pharmacists and others all had their own cures for the Spanish flu. But some of these may have made things worse.
We're researching COVID-19 in a fast-paced world with new data becoming available all the time. We track which interventions work well and which ones don't.

But in 1918, during the Spanish flu pandemic, the world was a different place. No one was entirely sure what caused influenza. By the time health authorities began to find out, it was too late.

Our knowledge about viruses was limited in 1918, but we knew about bacteria. People who died of flu had bacterial infection in their lungs. However, this threw researchers off track because these were secondary infections, not caused directly by the flu.

With this lack of knowledge, it was still an anything-goes medical research world. There were unregulated vaccine trials and lots of hype for the latest "cure", even in respectable medical journals.

More than 100 years on, controversial "cures" for COVID-19, such as ivermectin, are making the headlines, being reported in medical journals and are being promoted by doctors and politicians.

Here's what we know about the Spanish flu "cures" of the day, whisky included.

Read more: I asked historians what find made them go 'wait, wut?' Here's a taste of the hundreds of replies

Doctors, pharmacists and nurses had cures

Doctors developed and used some of these cures for the flu. Sydney's chief quarantine officer, Dr Reid, treated patients in March 1919 with 15-grain (1 gram) doses of calcium lactate every four hours, and a "vaccine" containing influenza and pneumococcus bacteria. In 203 cases, he had no deaths.

Calcium lactate is used today to treat low levels of calcium in the blood. But Dr Reid's doses are well above the current recommended daily level.

Trove Digitised Newspapers, Guyra Argus, September 11, 1919, p2, National Library of Australia

Chemists were also busy making and selling their own influenza cures. J. Reginald Albert McAlister of Guyra in regional New South…
Read full article