Medicine in the Middle Ages c.1350 - 1500

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The Black Death 1348

Beliefs about causes

People believed the story of William Brewer: that the Black Death was caused by frogs, snakes and scorpions that fell from the sky. They say it spread by the wind.

The Black Death was actually transmitted to people through fleas that lived on rodents. The bacteria lives in the bloodstream of rats so that when a flea bites it, it takes on the bacteria. The flea then passes on the disease to another human or animal.


Treatments aimed to draw out the poison:

- Swellings softened with figs and onions mixed with butter and yeast. The swellings were then opened with a knife.

- Taking a live frog and putting it on the sore. The frog will swell up and burst.

Doctors based their treatments on the four humours. Astrology was also used to decide the best treatment. Bleeding cups were a common treatment, but were dangerous because patients lost 3 - 4 pints of blood…


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