Cold, Flu and Winter Bugs

Written by on December 15, 2015

‘Tis the season for sniffles! We’re now well into winter, Christmas is nearly upon us, and no doubt you or someone you know is battling a horrendous cold. Our latest exhibition in the College’s Crush Hall area runs throughout December and January, and showcases some historical remedies for those pesky winter bugs.

This small exhibition pulls together material from our museum, library and archive collections. From the museum collection, we have some very pretty inhalers from the late 19th century. This Cresolene Vaporizer is designed to treat a range of ailments by dispersing Phenol (i.e. carbolic acid).


Cresolene Vaporizer, c. 1890-1920

From the archive, our 18th century manuscript book of herbal remedies (GB 250 RCPSG 1/20/3/1), embedded below, provides some fairly sensible suggestions, mostly involving ginger, honey or lemon in some form.

[archiveorg-book BookOfHerbalRemedies/Herbal#page/n91/mode/2up width=480 height=430]

Also featured from the library collections is a 19th century translation of the ancient Egyptian Ebers Papyrus, in which patients suffering from a cold are offered an incantation rather than any medicinal solution:

“Flow out, you who break the bones, destroy the skull, and make ill the seven holes of the head!”

If you’d like to visit the College to view this exhibition, Crush Hall and the Library are open to the public on Monday afternoons (21st December, 11th, 18th & 25th January) from 2pm until 5pm and at other times by appointment.

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The College’s heritage collections – including thousands of medical and surgical instruments, rare books, archives, and pictures – span over 6 centuries and are an excellent resource for exploring the history of medicine and the history of the city of Glasgow. Many items from the collections have been digitised and are available to view here. Our digitisation work is ongoing, and we add new items to the site regularly, so keep checking back to discover more.

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