How was health in the Elizabethan Era?

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  1. u must be so lonly having time to rite that! lol

  2. The Elizabethan era was literally plagued by the Black Death, also known as the Bubonic plague. The Elizabethans had no idea what caused the spread of the plague ( it was carried by fleas and transmitted normally by rodents). The underlying cause of many of the Elizabethan illnesses was the lack of sanitation, especially in large towns or cities such as London. There were open sewers in the streets which were also filled with garbage. There was no running water. This was obtained from water pumps which helped to spread typhoid. Elizabethan doctors were Physicians, Surgeons, Barbers and Apothecaries. The best doctors were too expensive to employ, many would not attend cases of Typhoid or the plague. Home made potions and cures were often the only medicines available. It was the duty of an Elizabethan housewife to ensure that such medicinal recipes were available to her family. Elizabethan Food - fruit, root vegetables and many dairy products were viewed as unseemly to wealthy families. The family health of poorer families was sometimes better than wealthy families! There were no labour saving devices such as those enjoyed today so the fitness levels and strength of Elizabethan men and women were quite high.

    Elizabethan Medicine was extremely basic in an era when terrible illnesses such as the Bubonic Plague (Black Death ) were killing nearly one third of the population. The above picture is of an Elizabethan Physician. Just the sight of an Elizabethan Physician in his strange clothing, especially the weird mask, was enough to frighten anyone to death! But the Physicians clothes probably saved his life and prevented him contracting the illnesses and diseases of his patients such as the plague and typhoid. The underlying cause of many of the Elizabethan illnesses was the lack of sanitation, especially in large towns or cities such as London. There were open sewers in the streets which were also filled with garbage. This was occasionally removed and waste was dumped into the nearest river such as the Thames. Diseases were easily spread in this unsanitary environment where fleas, lice and rats all flourished. There was no running water, this was obtained from water pumps ( a main cause of the spread of typhoid ).

    Elizabethan Illnesses
    Elizabethan illnesses were similar to the illnesses of the Modern age - but before causes had been identified and cures identified. In addition to this there were outbreaks of terrible diseases such as the Bubonic Plague and Typhoid. Broken bones, wounds, abscesses and fractures were treated in unsanitary environments making the condition even worse. The only cure for toothache was having the tooth pulled - without anaesthetics! Amputations were performed by surgeons - the stump was cauterised with pitch. Poor living conditions and poor diet led to many illnesses suffered by both the wealthy and the poor. Anaemia was common as was rheumatism, arthritis, tuberculosis and dysentery ( known as the flux ). Child bearing and possible childbed fever was dangerous - many Elizabethan woman made arrangement for the care of their children in case they themselves died during childbirth. The white make-up applied by the Upper Class women was lead based and therefore poisonous - Elizabethan women who applied this make-up were often ill and if it was used in sufficient quantities it would result in death. The Upper classes also suffered from gout. Influenza was common, referred to as the 'sweating sickness'. Sexually Transmitted diseases, such as Syphilis, were also prevalent.

    Elizabethan Medicine
    Elizabethan medicines were  basic, to say the least. Letting blood was conducted by cupping or leeches. The Medicine used to treat various illnesses were as follows:

    Bubonic Plague ( the Black Death )
    Bubonic Plague was treated by lancing the buboes and applying a warm poultice of butter, onion and garlic. Various other remedies were tried including tobacco, arsenic, lily root and dried toad!  

    Head Pains
    Head Pains were treated with sweet-smelling herbs such as rose, lavender, sage, and bay.

    Stomach Pains and Sickness
    Stomach pains and sickness were treated with wormwood, mint, and balm.

    Lung Problems
    Lung problems given the medical treatment of liquorice and comfrey.

    Vinegar was widely used as a cleansing agent as it was believed that it would kill disease.

    The causes of death in the Elizabethan Times were the lack of sanitation.  The streets of cities and towns were unadulterated cesspools. They also did not clean their instruments and tools very well after surgery.   Also, their diet contained most meat and rarely any vegetables.  Their bad diet resulted in the disease Scurvy.  Scurvy was a disease that resulted from the lack of Vitamin C in the body.  Explorers also brought many diseases when they traveled.  They brought back smallpox and syphilis.

    The plague, in time, killed about 25 million people.   The symptoms of the plague were swelling of the lymph nodes and black spots would appear on the skin. At this time the doctors new very little about the plague

    Medicines then used are very different from what we use now.   They believed that magic helped heal wounds.  Gemstones were used also. They used Garnets to keep the sorrow at bay. Topaz and Jacinth were used to alleviate anger. They also believed in astrology. They used herbs mostly. There were different kinds of herbs used for different kinds of disease and where the disease had spread.   They believed in the four elements of humour air, water, earth, and fire. Air was the cold element, water was the moist, earth the dry, and fire was the hot element.

    In the 16th century, the life span was shorter than that of today. The average lifespan of an adult male was 47 years, while the life expectancy of people in London was 35 years for the richer ones, and only 25 years for the less affluent ones. Death in infancy or early childhood was common. Also, about 40% of the people died before their middle teenage years.

    The average lifespan then was much lower than that of the present due to many factors. For example, due to the poor sanitation in England, especially in big cities such as London, epidemic diseases were widely spread. It was also very common for children to contract various diseases and die at a young age as some homemade medicine were ineffective and inadequate, and many ill children were abandoned during the 16th century. Death in childbirth was also common. Moreover, due to the high costs of seeing a physician and the use of non-advanced medicine, people were unable to cure all diseases with their homemade medicine. Surgical procedures were also very basic without the use of high-tech machines and instruments. As the tools and instruments were not thoroughly and properly disinfected, wounds of patients were often infected which led to many deaths during the operations.

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