It’s that time of year when pollen coats furniture, cars, and anything that stands still outside for more than a minute or so. Especially in East Tennessee, folks barely survive spring as they snort, sniff, cough, and hack from allergic reactions.
Grandson Madden spent his birthday with a fever, snotty nose, and fatigue as Mother Nature sprinkled a variety of things in the air. When he has a cold, doctors won’t prescribe anything to ease the symptoms. Instead, they tell parents to just let the thing run its course. Now, remember that those physicians aren’t going to spend the next several nights sitting up with the sick child as he or she coughs and struggles to catch a breath through a stuffy nose.
When our children suffered from allergies and bad colds, doctors showed better sense. They were careful not to overprescribe medications, but they did have the good sense to offer their small patients, and their parents at the same time, some small relief. Decongestants helped, as did doses of Tylenol. The best medicine that MD’s gave quieted coughs so that children could sleep and allow their bodies to remain strong enough to fight off those colds and allergy symptoms. On those occasions when nose drainage or mucus in the lungs turned green, prescriptions became necessary. For what seemed an eternity, Lacey and Dallas took “bubblegum” flavored medicine. Amoxicillin came to the rescue and zapped illnesses in short order. We celebrated when the kids crossed to the other side of illness into recovery and good health.
Long ago in another world without fear of giving medicine to children, parents used things passed down from generations before, and they worked well. Never mind that today those remedies might be looked upon with frowns. For instance, when an ear ache that felt as if spikes were being driven in to our brains hit, our parents had us stand close to them. They’d take a long slow drag from a cigarette and then blow the smoke into our ear canal. A cotton ball plugged the opening, and within a couple of minutes, the pain subsided. Stopped up noses opened after application of a cool, damp wash cloths or a rubbing of Vick’s on our upper lips. For chest colds, a glob of mentholated goo was rubbed onto our bodies. Its strong smell was matched in disgust only by the way pajamas stuck when it touched the stuff.
The worst of all medicines came when uncontrolled coughing hit. On one occasion, I swallowed a two-fingered scoop of Vicks. It worked well for a while, but eventually, the hacking returned. Daddy would hear us and go to work making a magic elixir. He’d blend honey, horehound candy, a touch of lemon, and several ounces of whiskey. Soon, he’d be standing by our beds with the concoction and a spoon. Even though we protested, he made us take a hardy dose of stuff. We held it in our mouths as long as possible before swallowing and feeling the fires of hell travel down our throats. Within minutes, the coughing stopped, and we drifted off to sleep.
These days doctors, lawyers, and politicians would scream abuse if parents used such barbaric remedies. Children would do as we did: hide under our blankets to squelch coughs so that the cure wouldn’t be offered. The fact is that those things did work, and none of us seemed to suffer. Today’s physicians and parents could learn a thing or two from past generations. If they did, children would receive treatment for their misery, and everyone in the family would sleep better.