Posted 11 April 2020
“Spanish Influenza – what it is and how it should be treated,” read the reassuringly factual headline to an advert for Vick’s VapoRub back in 1918. The text beneath included nuggets of wisdom such as “stay quiet” and “take a laxative”. Oh, and to apply their ointment liberally, of course.
The 1918 flu pandemic was the most lethal in recorded history, infecting up to 500 million people (a quarter of the world’s population at the time) and killing tens of millions worldwide.
But with crisis comes opportunity, and the – sometimes literal – snake oil salesmen were out in force. Vick’s VapoRub had stiff competition from a panoply of crackpot remedies, including Miller’s Antiseptic Snake Oil, Dr