The Gasworks 'Cure' For Whooping Cough

The article below is from The Gippsland Times, Australia and was published on Thursday 7 January 1926. It shows how desperate parents were - in the days before vaccination - for anything that might relieve their children's suffering. It should be remembered that another well-known 'cure' was to pass the child three times beneath the belly of a donkey!

THE GASWORKS CURE - Of all the infectious illnesses from which children suffer, whooping cough is perhaps the most annoying for while the cough seldom necessitates the invalid remaining in bed, his other strength is weakened considerably by the continual harsh "bark."

Many mothers will tell you that in whatever month a child catches the cough, it will not be got rid of until the following November. It is no wonder then that mothers pray that their youngsters may catch whooping cough in October, if they have to have it at all.

Some years ago, if one had asked for the best cure for this annoying complaint the answer would have been ‘Take him for a walk round the gasworks every day for a week and he'll be as right as rain in a very short time’.

This is not just an old wives tale, for there are certain properties in the smells emitted by a gasworks which might be of value in getting rid of this tiresome whoop.

Just lately the South Suburban Gas Co. Ltd. at their works in Lower Sydenham, on the south-eastern boundary of the London area, have taken up the idea of gas being good for the affected child. They have turned their pump room into a clinic where children who are suffering can go and ‘take the smells’. In this case one cannot say ‘take the waters’.

This pump-room is the place from which the gas liquor, through which the gas itself is passed for purification, is pumped to different parts of the works where it is needed.

The fumes from this gas liquor contain ammonia, sulphuretted hydrogen, - that obnoxious gas which makes one think of rotten eggs - naphthaline and tar. Of these four constituents the ammonia and the tar are the chief agents in the curative work. The ammonia has the same effect as smelling salts, in that it clears the nasal passages and the head, while the aromatics from the tar causes a tickling sensation about the throat.

It is more or less a case of killing to cure, for in most instances the fumes from the gas liquor bring on violent fits of coughing. But the trouble in the throat, which causes the whoop, is often removed in this manner.

The Gippsland Times Article

Photo - Steve Grindlay