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I've always wanted people to call me "Iron Woman."


Even us trailing-edge Baby Boomers can't elude our age forever. For the past 9 years I've received a series of annoying (if not alarming) medical diagnoses. I'm not any more mortal than anyone else, so far as I know, but it is still not a happy occasion to have to factor in the annual cost of maintenance prescriptions when planning one's fiscal year. Phooey on that, say I.

Having done my due diligence, research shows that pretty much everything I've been prescribed is fairly new. No one in Big Pharma is experimenting on me -- those unproven meds are pricey. In other words, if it doesn't kill you with side effects, it will make you poor.

No, most of the stuff I'm having to take has been on the market long enough to bring the cost down and avoid any nasty surprises. It's ho-hum stuff, for the most part.

Still, I get nostalgic thinking about all the conventional wisdom that dominated my childhood. My mother's favorite remedy for almost everything was milk (or "milt" as she liked to say when she lapsed into baby-talk for my sake). I really didn't like milk, and that seemed to doubly convince her that she was on the right track in prescribing it for me. I guess there's some logic there: Kool-Aid and Coca-Cola never cured anything, and I liked those just fine.

I'm glad no one ever told my mother about cod-liver oil.

Other than "milt," there was yogurt. That, I liked. My pediatrician recommended it; he was obviously a couple of decades ahead of everyone else. Back then, a container of Dannon was big -- probably at least 8 ounces, compared to the portion sizes so tiny nowadays, you can barely get your spoon into the cup. Or...maybe it just seemed bigger, with me being small by comparison. All I know is, back in the 1960s you could get coffee flavored yogurt, and that was my favorite. Once in awhile I find coffee yogurt in the local stores, but those happy occasions are few and far between.

The medical part of my sustained health took the form of vitamins. There was something called Nectavite-M, sold by the Hudson company, and these were only available at a pharmacy. Not a prescription item, but sort of boutique-y. When Pals, Flintstones and Scooby-Doo vitamins came on the market, our yogurt-loving MD dismissed them as "cheap garbage." My parents, for all their rather low income, drew the line at anything that would suggest they weren't taking the greatest of care of their little princess. A trip to the shoe store was always an event. My mother was convinced I had a "high instep" and would urge me to walk around on the store carpet until she was sure that the shoes fit perfectly. One day as a teenager, when I had gotten to the point that I could buy my own shoes, I advised the salesperson that I had a high instep. He furrowed his brow and said "You have a what?" He'd never heard of such sophisticated shoe science. It was then that I began to suspect my parents had been, shall we say, a tad overzealous.

Oh, but back to the vitamins. These upscale chewables had vitamins plus minerals, plus iron. Iron was a big deal (wasn't everything?) to my mother. In fact, she often remarked that "milt" was the most perfect food there was -- except for iron. The way she said it, it sounded like she felt nature had somehow let her down by omitting her favorite nutrient. But that was okay. I liked spinach; I could tolerate liver, and I had those wonderful Nectavite-M's to ensure that I never became iron deficient.

Back then, if you recall, pharmaceutical companies were not allowed to advertise prescription meds. For a myriad of obvious reasons, this was a good thing. Especially in my home. Imagine what flights of fancy Mom might have embarked on if she'd had all the many choices available to consumers today.

But there were plenty of everyday, over-the-counter products to stir the soul of the average hypochondriac. The commercials for these were wonderful. There was one for Bayer Aspirin that featured a person getting beaten about the head by little cartoon hammers. Excedrin -- originator of the Excedrin Headache, which came in an array of "numbers." "Excedrin Headache number 82: Have you seen Junior's grades?" I'll bet David Lee Roth's mom took a lot of Excedrin.

Its rival was Anacin, and the classic commercial for that was a woman trying to do something food-related; when her mother sees her having trouble and trying to help, the woman exclaims (c'mon, you know this one):

Mother, please! I'd rather do it myself!

Compōz was a tranquilizer, advertised for "simple nervous tension." When it grew up, it became better known as Benadryl, Tylenol PM, and any other OTC remedy for allergy or sleeplessness.

Kids in the 60s were quite familiar with Speedy Alka-Seltzer (later replaced by the guy sitting on his bed in his underwear, moaning "I can't believe I ate that whoooooooole thing!"), "How do you spell relief? R-O-L-A-I-D-S," and last but not least, Geritol for "iron-poor blood." Before Viagra changed everything, Geritol was your best defense against "that run-down feeling."

Which brings us to the brave new world of the 21st century. Last week I was working my way through my fourth or fifth cup of coffee at the office, and it wasn't even 10:00 a.m. yet. And I'd had at least two cups at home. And it wasn't even Monday. I remember thinking "I have that run-down feeling," and very quickly ruling out a need for Viagra.

And then, bing! That Geritol commercial of my childhood (who says TV isn't educational!) popped right into my head.

I broke several company policies by logging right onto the internet, where I typed that legendary phrase: Iron-poor blood. The search engine didn't even hesitate. It spewed out about 30 pages' worth of results. I consulted the Mayo Clinic website, and Wikipedia, all of which provided long (long) lists of symptoms. After a bit of surfing, cutting and pasting, I determined that I had no less than 16 symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia.

Well, alrighty then. How simple. How obvious. How old-school!

To my great relief, my local Family Dollar had a nice bottle of ferrous sulfate for less than four bucks. The label recommends one tablet per day but I'm going to start out with two for the first week. Then I'll cut back. I suppose one day I'll take a break from this, like when the kitchen magnets start floating across the room to stick to my body.


The Urban Blabbermouth said…
My mom's remedy cod liver oil and water that she boiled with lettuce.

I liked the witch doctor who prescribed a patient to eat month old moldy bread and say ten Hail Mary's every hour for 5 days.
What a great post, one that certainly brings back memories. I never had to worry about cod liver oil, as my parents figured we got enough nutrients from our food (which included liver on a regular basis). And then they made us work in the garden.

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