Does Poor Air Quality Cause Colds?

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Friday, October 11, 1912:  I’ve fully awakened to the startling fact that I’m getting another cold. It’s on its way. Had an exam in Caesar.

Maybe cough cream would help cure Grandma’s cold. Was this about the same thing as Vicks Vapor-rub? (Do they still make that?) Ad in November 1912 issues of Good Housekeeping magazine.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

This is the second cold that Grandma had during Fall, 1912.  On September 1, 1912 she wrote:

I have one cracker jack of a cold. . . . .

I wonder if lower air quality due to the use of a wood or coal stove for heating might have contributed to the current cold. This is what the October, 1912 issue of Ladies Home Journal had to say:

When “Colds” Begin

No sooner do we light our winter fires than we begin to have “colds” and we blame it on the colder weather. Doctors know, however, that it is not the lower temperature that brings on “colds.”

If cold weather produces “colds,” why is it that they do not have such diseases in the Arctic regions, where today they are absolutely unknown? Why is it that Peary and his men never had a single “cold” until they came back to American shores—and our dry-heated homes?

God never created the oxygen in the air to make us sick, but to keep us well. If the fresh air can do so much to heal the lungs attacked by tuberculosis or pneumonia how much more can it do for the healthy lung? If fresh air can heal a diseased lung can it not likewise keep well a healthy lung? It is the dust and the dry heat inside our homes that produce our “cold”: never the fresh air.  . .

10 Responses

  1. Fascinating information and thought process.

  2. Hi. In spite of 100 years, I don’t think we are much closer to getting rid of a cold. We still just have to wait it out. Jane

  3. Dont know about the cough cream but Vicks is still in my home treatment arsenal.

  4. Yes, they still make Vicks. I don’t know what I would do without the small jar when I have a cold.

  5. Very savvy doctor there, in 1912. I am also impressed with your grandmother’s correct spelling/usage of it’s and its :)

  6. When I was researching about women lives the first quarter of the 20th century to figure out why there was so many unfinished quilts from that period. Of coarse it was because of the Spanish flue. But I also found out that there had been many out breaks of viruses before that. People were starting to get very mobil and traveling on the trains. She may also have allergies and walking in the fall with so many weeds in final bloom might be causing some flair ups.

    My mother used to tell us kids that her mother would not heat the house until after the first week of cold weather to kill the bugs that might be inside. They had no indoor plumbing to worry about freezing and she said she would get so cold at night and they would all beg her to fire up the coal furnace, but she wanted those bugs dead.

  7. Enjoyed the article. I almost typed in..hope your grandmother is better soon!! See – thanks to you we all know her now and she has become a friend. :) Hope to make the trek to “visit” Helena this weekend should be a nice autumn day. I will take pictures.

  8. I have Vics Vapor Rub on hand too. I don’t believe it claims to heal diseased lungs.

  9. […] first mentioned having a cold six days prior to this diary […]

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