What if you went to the doctor for a cold and the doctor told you the cause were evil spirits? In medieval times this would have been the case. It is now known that these illnesses are caused by bacteria and viruses; but, back then the concept would be considered witchcraft or insanity. The Treatment of common ailments has drastically changed from medieval Europe to modern times.
A common practice was bloodletting, for any and all ailments. Bloodletting was said to remove “bad blood” from the body (Seigworth). On occasion, leeches were used to remove bad blood, but this was used most with nobles and the rich and more often dirty knives were used instead. Since medieval doctors had no concept of germs they did not sanitize anything properly. This raised mortality rates due to infection (Trueman). At times bloodletting could be helpful because it lowered blood pressure, which reduced the risk of heart attack and stroke, however this was not the intention of bloodletting and more of a happy accident. (Tumbarello). Furthermore it was believed that bloodletting removed evil spirits that caused illnesses (Seigworth).
Another way of ridding the body of spirits was through trepanation. This process included drilling a hole into the patient's head and taking off part of the skull to release evil spirits. The doctor sometimes went even further and cut out parts of the brain that were “infected” (Trueman). Amazingly, “people are known to have survived operations such as these as skulls have been found which show bone growth around the hole cut by a surgeon – a sign that someone did survive such an operation if only for a while”(Trueman). The patients lucky enough to survive likely died of infection due to unsterile environments and lack of antibiotics- which were unheard of in medieval times.
Nowadays if someone reported a headache they would not have a hole drilled into their head. They would take some aspirin and a drink of water, and then move on with their lives. In modern times treatment to common ailments is simple: rest, water and some over the counter medicine such as Tylenol or Dayquil. However in medieval Europe the treatment could be something as complex as going on a pilgrimage to the nearest holy place (Trueman). This could take weeks if one were lucky, months if one was not. Once there the pilgrim would buy holy water and be miraculously cured, although there is no evidence that a pilgrimage cured the illness. It is more likely that one got over the cold in the time it took to get to the holy place.
In modern times if someone is sick, they drinks tea and gets rest. If they becomes even sicker they take over the counter cold suppressants. Even when the cold becomes a serious problem...