Tudor Illness and Medicine

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Tudor Illness and Medicine

Health care in the Renaissance era was dreadful. No one really knew what they were doing. Science and what we know of the human body and condition has come a long way since then. There were three major killing diseases during the reign of the Tudors. Even though things like Consumption (Tuberculosis) and the Pox (Smallpox) continued to do people in as it had for many of thousands of years, the three most terrifying afflictions of the era were: Influenza, The Plague, and The Sweating Sickness.

Influenza was the worse. It killed more often than anything else. Especially in heavily populated and over crowded towns/cities. There was even an outbreak among the army between 1557-1558, during an attempt to recapture Calais. Many times wars and battles were lost due to illness.

The Bubonic Plague was another death bringer. Rats were an infestation among the peasants and nobility alike. The fleas that were carried by the rats also carried the deadly bacillus bacteria. in 1603, 38,000 people were wipe out in London alone. There was nothing anyone could do to stop it except run away from it.

The Sweating Sickness was a strange, mysterious illness of Tudor England. It appears to be a type a flu and they named it Sudor Anglicus (the English Sweat). Supposedly, to most people of Europe back then, it only happened in England. It is documented as being a sudden sickness that caused terror and panic, shortness of breath, and sweating. Death, many times, quickly followed. Some fought the illness and survived, but most were not strong enough. It was said “men were merry at dinner, and dead at supper.” Modern doctors and scientist find that it is very similar to the Hantavirus, which is typically carried in rats, their saliva, and their poop.

Although cleanliness had improved during Tudor Renaissance from the Medieval era, it was still far from today’s standards. Improved personal hygiene and a thorough cleaning of where people lived would have cut back on a lot of this nastiness. However, a decent clean water system was needed, which did not happen for most people for a long time still. The medical professionals were also inadequate as they still based most of their knowledge on superstition and belief in supernatural forces of nature, more than scientific nature. They were still developing through trial and error.

Apothecaries handled drugs and herbs and their knowledge of such remedies had been passed down for generations. Some were no doubt helpful, but most were experimental and nonsense. (Trial and error.)

Barber-Surgeons not only gave you shave and cut your hair, but they also performed amputations on soldiers and sailors.

Physicians were the most supernaturally superstitious out of the whole bunch. They believed in the Four Humours of Galen of the Ancient Greeks. (Just because it’s Greek does not mean it’s smart!) These guys were the ones apply leeches, thinking the little bloodsuckers were sucking the disease out of people.

Surgeons set bones and preformed operations without drugs to ease the pain. They were complete butchers. Many patients died from severe blood loss. Their secondary expertise was to treat Venereal Disease, which of course was blamed on the French. “Those wanton French!” 😀 😀 😀

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