We are fortunate today to have access to a wide range of safe and effective first aid medical practices.

It hasn’t always been this way. To kick off the new year and celebrate the turn of a new decade, we’ve looked to the past to appreciate how far medicine, and first aid, has progressed.

You don’t have to venture too far back in time to discover some questionable approaches to tackling even the most common of ailments. From the use of leeches to highly addictive drugs that are illegal today, these prescriptions range from the disgusting to the downright dangerous.

Here are just some of the most eyebrow-raising medical treatments resigned to the history books that make us grateful for being alive in the 21st century.

Class A drugs

During the early 20th century, cocaine was coined as ‘the wonder drug’. It was infamously commonplace in everything from cough medicines to soft drinks. The drug was falsely advertised as a cure for depression and anxiety, and also found use as a local anaesthetic.

Around the same time, heroin was sold in a syrup to treat the likes of coughs and insomnia. It would take a few years before doctors realised it was highly addictive and deadly, with the drug eventually banned in the 1920s.


Before penicillin, a syphilis diagnosis would result in a host of awful treatments that seem more than just a little absurd today. The most common was the indefinite administration of the toxic metal, mercury.

Another was to infect the patient with malaria, with the idea that it would raise the temperature of the body to kill the syphilis. Doctors mistook the effects of mercury poisoning as the symptoms of syphilis.

Leeches and bloodletting

These primitive worms have been associated with medical practices since ancient times.

This process of bloodletting, whereby the leeches withdrew ‘bad’ or an excess of blood from the body, was thought to cure a range of illnesses. More than a little counterproductive, leeches can actually infect the area they are attached to.

Mainstream lobotomy

Perhaps the most shocking treatment to feature on this list is the lobotomy, especially when you consider how recent it makes an appearance in modern healthcare.

It was thought to treat mental health conditions such as schizophrenia and depression. Brought into practice in 1935, the process of severing the connections to and from the brain’s frontal lobes became a mainstream procedure for more than 20 years.

Teething problems

We are fortunate to have advanced medical equipment today.

While morphine is still used for severe pain relief in adults and children, there was a time when it was given to babies who were teething. A destructive practice known as ‘lancing’ was also common practice, where the gums were scraped away to make way for emerging teeth.

Thankfully, you won’t find any of these dated practices in use today. At First Aid Warehouse you’ll find all the latest items you need to complete your comprehensive first aid kit, so you are prepared for any incident at home, in the workplace or on the road. We can also offer discounts for bulk and repeat orders. Contact us for further details.

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