Medicine in the Middle Ages

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Medicine in the Middle Ages We are very lucky today. When we are sick we go and see the doctor, and he or she can usually make us better with the use of medicine. It wasn‘t like this in the medieval era. People didn‘t live very long at all. Two out of every 10 babies died in the first year of life and most people didn‘t live past 40. Wealthy people, who could afford trained doctors might live up to 10 years longer. There weren’t many trained doctors in Europe in the Middle Ages . In Paris in 1274 there were only 8 doctors and about 40 people practising medicine without any official training and they didn’t really understand how the body worked and why people got sick. When making a diagnosis doctors might consult medical books, astrological charts and urine samples. Some doctors believed disease was caused by bad smells or small worms, or the position of the planets or stars. They also charged very high fees, so only the rich could afford them. Although surgical operations were performed, they did not know about sanitisation and there were no anaesthetics. Most patients died from infection or shock. Many people didn’t believe in medicine at all. The most commonly used treatment was prayer. Ordinary people relied on methods their parents and grandparents used, such as lucky charms, magic spells and herbal cures. Some of the herbal cures were quite useful. The monks who looked after sick travellers in the monasteries were very skilled in using herbs. Some modern medicines are based on the herbs used in medieval times. In the 13th century Kings were believed to be able to cure illness, particularly the skin disease scrofula, just by touching the ill person. During the 14th century most of Europe was struck by a devastating disease called the Black Death, or bubonic plague. This disease was carried by flees which lived on rats. When the rats died, the flees jumped onto humans and spread the disease. Even though the Black Death was controlled in Europe by 1351, it came back regularly over the next 150 years. Dr Medi Evil has kindly agreed to come to the school today to help solve some of your medical problems. Hello everyone. Now Rachel, I believe you have the fever. This is because you have too much blood. I will put blood sucking leaches on you and this should fix your problem.

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