15 Minor Injuries That Would Have Killed You 200 Years Ago main image
Scroll Down To Continue

15 Minor Injuries That Would Have Killed You 200 Years Ago

You got bitten by a snake.

You got bitten by a snake.

While you can still die from a snake bite if you aren’t close enough to an emergency facility (or someone with an antidote) and the snake is dangerous enough,most types of snake bites were certain death sentences 200 years ago. Luckily, herpetologists have spent the two centuries since then learning as much as they can about snakes, their venom, and how to counteract it. 

You broke your leg.

You broke your leg.

Maybe this isn’t necessarily a “minor” injury, and the more life-threatening leg injuries were those when a horse or a blacksmith anvil fell and smashed the leg. While reconstructive surgeries and casts are easy assumptions, 200 years ago, a leg injury often ended with an amputation. Amputations were tricky business often subject to gangrene, which could infect the whole body. 

You developed an abscess.

You developed an abscess.

Abscesses on the outside of the body can be a real problem without proper care; inside the body they can be an even bigger problem, especially if they pop.. Abscesses in the mouth cause a whole host of problems beyond pain -- when they start leaking, you’re swallowing all that junk, which can cause heart and gastrointestinal issues. Again, antibiotics are the best for treating them without lasting or fatal complications. 
 

You stepped on a rusty nail.

You stepped on a rusty nail.

While tetanus doesn’t spread between people, it is a very serious and fatal bacterial infection that causes horrible muscle cramps, stiffness, and even seizures. There is no cure and there are a lot of serious complications. The bacteria hides out in dirt and animal feces, entering through an open wound. Running around barefoot on the farm stepping on the nails you used to put the sheep pen together is a sure fire way to die a horrible, tetanus-related death. While we have the "luxury" of tetanus vaccines today (it's considered one of the more painful shots), folks before 1924 had no such luck. 

Image via: Instagram

You got shot.

You got shot.

Of course some gun shots in modern times will kill you. But in 1817, even a shot to a non-vital area could be fatal. ERs weren’t spread across the wild, wild west. Even if the bullet or arrow just grazed your arm, the best you could hope for was a buddy who could sew you up without flinching after throwing a little whiskey on the wound. A far cry from hygienic suture and sterile gloves in a hospital environment. 

Image via: Instagram

You’re having a really hard time going to the bathroom.

You’re having a really hard time going to the bathroom.

Constipation may be a precursor to issues like Crohn’s disease or colon cancer. Additionally, when you’re really desperate to get what’s inside out, you can actually push so hard you cause what’s called “fatal heart arrhythmia.” That basically means you strain to such an extent that your heart freaks out and sends all kinds of crazy signals that cause sudden cardiac death (a heart attack). 

You almost drowned and wound up with the bends.

You almost drowned and wound up with the bends.

You’re less likely to die from drowning now because as a whole we tend to be more familiar with CPR or carrying cell phones to dial 911. However, if you sink really deep, you can get decompression sickness, or the bends. During drowning your brain loses a lot of oxygen and it can take some seriously aggressive therapy to return your cognitive and neurological functioning to normal -- even these days that doesn’t always happen. 

Image via: Instagram

You cut your toenail so short it became ingrown.

You cut your toenail so short it became ingrown.

First of all, an ingrown toenail going to painful and probably inhibit your mobility -- and thus the cows don’t get taken care of, and the crops fail, and the chicken eggs all get eaten by snakes and then you starve to death. But that aside, an infected ingrown toenail can develop different types of bacteria that can grow into the bone. Without our modern antibiotics you can lose a toe or even develop deadly infections. 

Image via: Instagram

Your shoe rubbed a blister on your ankle and then you either didn’t wear socks or went barefoot.

Your shoe rubbed a blister on your ankle and then you either didn’t wear socks or went barefoot.

You’re probably thinking “Okay, come on, blisters? Get real.” But let us remember that 200 years ago, shoes were not taken for granted, nor were they made for all the many different shapes and sizes of feet. So you get a blister, and then wear your shoes over the blister (because your socks have to be clean for the town meeting), which causes a friction burn and eventually gets so infected you develop toxic shock. With no antibiotics around, you’re out of luck. 

You cutting your [insert any body part here].

You cutting your [insert any body part here].

Deeper wounds are certainly going to need more intensive care, but sewing up a gash from a deer skinning knife on your palm with an animal’s guts still lingering on it is not as sterile as the prepackaged suture your doctor would use. Even mild cuts and slices could be seriously dangerous, filling up with infections like staphylococcus, gangrene, cellulitis, and all kinds of other delightful things that lead to a fever and full body infection.

You got a splinter and can’t find it to get it out.

You got a splinter and can’t find it to get it out.

First of all, let’s rule out the toxic plants you can get a thorn-splinter from that can have a fatal reaction. Getting splinters in certain parts of the body made of particular woods or finished with certain products can be dangerous, particularly when they have bacteria like staph or tetanus on them. Even more dangerous are those that manage to make their way further into your interior. 

You got a pretty bad burn.

You got a pretty bad burn.

Not only are burns incredibly painful, particularly when widespread, they require careful handling to allow the skin to grow back. If it goes past the skin, the chances of infection are much greater and dangerous. Modern burn wards are specially designed to handle even the most extensive of burns. Plus they have the technology to help return some of the scarring to a semblance of normalcy.  

You hit your head and got a concussion falling out of a tree.

You hit your head and got a concussion falling out of a tree.

Even now, head injuries are some of the most questionable and difficult to manage and heal. But at least in this century we have CAT scans and MRIs to tell if the brain is hemorrhaging, and scales to rate the chances of returning from a coma. 200 years ago, resting and prayer were about your only hopes. 

A tree limb smacked you in the face, leaving you with a corneal abrasion.

A tree limb smacked you in the face, leaving you with a corneal abrasion.

When you get scratches on your eye bad enough to go to the doctor, they send you home with a topical antibiotic and maybe even make you wear an eyepatch to avoid infection leading to loss of vision. Losing your vision 200 years ago was almost a death sentence, depending on your station in life. 

You’ve fallen and you can’t get up.

You’ve fallen and you can’t get up.

There’s a reason whole businesses flourish around the elderly’s concern about falling and not being found for days. How far you fall, what you fall on, and how much damage ensues all play vital roles in whether or not you’re going to have a full life following a tumble. Broken hips, for example, were a straight ride to being a burden on your family (see broken legs).