Hundred-Year-Old Ways to Prevent and Treat Sunstroke

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

Tuesday, June 23, 1914:   I Boiled, Baked, and Stewed in the hot sun. Please forgive all the capitals, but I want it to stand out from this page in blaring headlines. It wasn’t a very comfortable feeling to be cooked in so many different ways.


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


Are you still picking strawberries for wages? Take care— You’re young and healthy, but don’t overdo it. You don’t want to get a sunstroke.

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons


The object is to reduce the temperature of the body. Generally, the causes of sunstroke are fatigue and sun heat, therefore, keep the head cool as possible and work in moderation while in the hot sun, and if any unusual dizziness is felt, cold water should be applied to the neck and head.

If the person falls unconscious he should at once be taken to a cool, airy place, and the bystanders should keep away so that the patient can get all the pure air possible. Sunstroke may be known by the respiration and pulse becoming slow and the face pale; give stimulants gradually, but do not use cold water too freely. Place the person on his back, the head being raised about two inches and a little ammonia water [smelling salts] given.

The Compendium of Every Day Wants (1908) by Luther Minter

27 Responses

  1. Sounds very hot! Do you think they ever went for a dip in the little river nearby?

  2. That sounds miserable and kind of dangerous!

    • I can remember that my father occasionally worried about sunstroke or heat stroke on very hot summer days when we were working very hard making hay.

  3. Or end up with skin cancer. When she was in her seventies, my grandmother had some problems, which the doctor said was caused by working out in the sun all those years….

    • Hopefully your grandmother’s skin cancer wasn’t too serious. All the sun exposure and skin damage can really add up over the years.

  4. Good for her to be aware of the dangers of sun. Wish our kids nowadays were!!!

  5. They had me until ammonia – euwwwww!
    Diana xo

  6. Truly a lady in a miserable shape. Bless her heart.

    • She was a hard worker. I wish a could have told her to take a break–and sip some cold lemonade under the shade of a tree. :)

  7. Oh dear–I wonder if she knew my trick: wet a bandana and freeze it, then wrap around your neck while working outdoors. I imagine no sunglasses or sun screen back then. And tans were not fashionable until the 1930s. Be careful, Helena!

  8. The hot weather can be dangerous. I wonder if 1914 was a really hot summer.

  9. It sounds awfully hot to be laboring in the sun all day.

  10. Fabulous post – thanks! Love this blog!

  11. My immediate thought given her age is “LOL.” She’s so funny. But, yes, awful to be working out in the heat like that, especially in those clothes.

  12. This is still good advice today!

  13. Interesting diary entry. It’s almost as if she knew others would be reading it when she said “Please forgive the all capitals ..”
    Has she spoken to readers in the past and I’ve just missed it?

    • Early in the diary she seemed to worry that someone else might be reading the diary–her mother??, her sister??–but for the last several years I haven’t really had a sense that she thought anyone else was looking at it. But maybe she still thought that her mother was looking at it–and wanted to make it to make it clear that she was unhappy with her working conditions.

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