Causes of Catarrh (Colds in the Head)

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

Thursday, March 9, 1911:  I have cold, and a sore nose, but my nose was worse than my cold. I just had to keep rubbing at it all day. It is a beautiful pink now. I didn’t feel very good today. Well who would with a sore nose and a blistered hand.

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

Grandma’s just having a bad week. See yesterday’s post  for more details about Grandma’s blistered hand.

A hundred years ago there a basic understanding that germs caused colds—but the focus was on keeping resistance high so that the germs wouldn’t take root and cause the cold.


Cause—There are many causes of catarrh; sudden change of temperature, too light clothing, sitting in a draught, chilly atmosphere, or anything that will cause a cold in the head. Exposure to cold lowers the resistance of the body to infection, and, what is more interesting still, it has been proved that in regard to various diseases which are known to be caused by micro-organisms, and especially in regard to pneumonia, we may carry the organisms about with us and not suffer, and yet that exposure to cold may at once enable the microbes to take root.

Compendium of Every Day Wants (1908)

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