1950s Health

Health Care in the 1950s

In the 'now' generation where health care plays such an important role in the daily lives of almost every citizen, and billions of dollars are spent annually on pharmaceuticals, it's hard to believe that, health in the 1950s seemed much more simple. Half a century ago, most people lived long healthy lives without all the drugs and treatments that are considered essential these days.

Imagine a world where Xrays were just starting to become common, so PET scans and MRI's were way in the future, as was chemotherapy and many of the other common medical treatments of today.

desperate measures

In the 1950s, the choice of medical treatments and solutions was comparatively small and most people only went to see a Doctor if they were really sick, or had an injury. However, Doctors did make house calls so if you were worried about a patient, you put them to bed and called the Doctor. Bed rest and home based remedies or a trip to the Chemist for aspirin, cough mixture, or "something for an upset tummy" solved most problems.

Common products popularly available in Australia were Aspro & Veganin tablets and Bex powders for aches and pains. It was said, A cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down, would cure most aches and pains.

Children's coughs might be cured by a chest rub with Vicks Vapour Rub, or a drop of Vicks in a bowl of hot water inhaled with the patients head covered by a towel. Adults might reach for Buckley's Canadiol Mixture to cure a cough, or any one of a variety of cough drops, or simply lemon and honey in a glass of warm water, with maybe a dash of rum for dad.

Fizzy drinks like Enos, Sal Vital or Andrews Liver Salts helped fix tummy upsets and Ford Pills promised benefits for internal organs. Irradol-A and fish emulsion tasted dreadful but were considered "good for you." Children, particularly those with finicky appetites, were often given a 'vitamin tonic'.

Allergies were unheard of. All kids drank milk and ate peanut butter sandwiches.

Common causes of death, then, as now, were heart attacks or cancer, with diabetes far less common or perhaps less diagnosed than it is today. Whooping cough, mumps, measles and chicken pox were common childhood ailments. Many young children had their adenoids and tonsils removed, as it was considered less likely to cause complications to perform a tonsillectomy on a child, than on an adult.

One of the biggest dreads for parents in the 1950s was that their children might be affected by the viral epidemic of Infantile Paralysis, or Poliomyelitis, which, if not causing death, left children with wasted muscles and withered limbs. The introduction of the Salk Vaccine in the late 50s or early 60s was the great step forward in defeating this horrible disease.

Summing up, people did very well with what they had in the 50s to keep healthy and enjoy a long and fruitful life, without the over-emphasis on drugs and medical treatments that are part of the 21st Century.

For more about life in the 1950s.