Major Health Hazards in the Middle Ages
This practice of using rushes as floor coverings was described by
Erasmus "... floors are laid with white clay, and are covered with rushes, occasionally renewed, but so imperfectly that the bottom layer is left undisturbed, sometimes for twenty years, harbouring expectoration, vomiting, the leakage of dogs and men, ale droppings, scraps of fish, and other abominations not fit to be mentioned...".
There were open sewers in the streets which were also filled with garbage. This waste 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 - a perfect environment for the spread of the Black Death.
Health in the Middle Ages - Medieval Warfare
Medieval illnesses were similar to the illnesses of the Modern age - but before causes had been identified and cures identified. It is not surprising that health during the Middle Ages was poor and the mortality rates following illnesses were high. This was the period of
the Crusades and battles for power and conquest during the
One Hundred Years War and the
Wars of the Roses. Siege warfare and constant battles were the norm in the Middle Ages. Knights and soldiers suffered from various health problems such as broken bones, wounds, abscesses and fractures. These were treated in unsanitary environments making the condition even worse. The only cure for toothache was having the tooth pulled - without anaesthetics. Dreadful amputations were performed by surgeons - the stump was cauterised with pitch.
Health in the Middle Ages - Poor Living Conditions
Poor living conditions and poor diet led to many Middle Ages Health problems suffered by both the wealthy and the poor Medieval people. Anaemia was common as was rheumatism, arthritis, tuberculosis and dysentery ( known as the flux ). Child bearing and possible childbed fever was dangerous and many women died during childbirth. Influenza was also a common health problem, referred to as the 'sweating sickness'. Sexually Transmitted diseases, such as Syphilis, were also prevalent.