Archive for colds & fevers


Feed A Cold; Starve A Fever.

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This was a common expression when I was young and helped govern what happened when we got sick. There were different foods given to us depending on the ailment and they were all easy to digest and assimilate. For intestinal ailments that involved nausea and/or diarrhea, ginger ale or mint tea with honey were given first, sometimes by the teaspoonful. Next came chicken broth or beef broth, and then a small amount of milk toast or a very ripe mashed banana was added provided all went well. For babies and young children the pediatrician advised a solution of one quart of distilled or boiled water with 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt and 1 tablespoon of sugar, or honey if the child was old enough, as often as possible to prevent dehydration. This was all that was given until 24 hours after the last bout of diarrhea, and absolutely nothing else. Giving anything else would cause the diarrhea to commence again which increased the chance of dehydration.

For head colds, all dairy and wheat were eliminated as these caused alot of mucus. Anything with vitamin C was consumed and healing soups were recommended. We could eat most foods provided they were easy to digest (not too fatty or rich). If a fever was present, liquids and broths were the only sustanence until the fever broke since it was believed that the digestive system needed to rest so that the body could use all of it’s resources to fight the illness.

Later I heard that the actual expression (from Hippocrates?) was: If you feed a cold, you will have to starve a fever. This still makes sense to me and since the foods changed even for a cold, it seems my Mother and Grandmother also believed this. Another thought was that you didn’t give kids treats when they were sick because it would make them want to be sick!