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The Sleeping Beauty, by John Collier

During medieval times, diseases were a constant threat to people’s health, brought about by lack of hygiene and poor understanding of the nature of the illness. The myriad diseases that plagued and perplexed medieval physicians are well understood today, but one that remains a historical and medical mystery is the English sweating sickness.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, a mysterious epidemic swept across Europe. Victims of the disease first came down with fever and cold shivers, along with headache, severe pains in the neck, shoulders, and limbs, and great weakness. The cold stage lasted from half an hour to three hours, after which the hot phase started. This was characterized by profuse sweating and thirst, accompanied by delirium, rapid pulse, palpitation and chest pain. In the final stages, the victim would collapse and fall asleep, never to wake up again. The most terrifying aspect of the sweating sickness was the speed with which it killed. Most victims were dead within 18 hours after the first onset of symptoms. Only those who survived the first 24 hours went on to make a full recovery.


© Amusing Planet, 2020.



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