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26 Antique Pictures Celebrating the Red Cross

In many ways, the Red Cross is still largely the same as it was throughout the past 150 years, performing blood drives, delivering care packages to prisoners of war, helping victims of natural disasters, and rescuing those injured on the battlefield. In honor of the group’s fantastic work throughout the years, here are some classic pictures of the foundation at work.

All images courtesy of the Library of Congress.

On the Field

The Red Cross started in 1863 with the noble goal to provide medical services to those injured during war, regardless of the victims' affiliations. Since then, they have moved on towards helping victims of all types of disasters, although much of their work has still been dedicated to their original goal.

Clara Barton started the American Red Cross in 1881, and this is probably the first picture of the organization at work, shot in 1898 during the Spanish American War.

By the time WWI rolled around, the group was already large enough to have its own dedicated trains used to treat those injured in battle and to transport them to a hospital.

These weren’t just shabby cargo trains either; for patients that couldn’t survive the trip to the hospital, full-scale operating rooms were available to help maximize the survival rates for those rescued.

Planes were part of the group’s line-up in WWII, but they weren’t always just used out on the battlefield. In 1942, this poor lad was injured on the Corpus Christi naval station, which was so inaccessible by most vehicles that he had to be air-lifted to the nearest hospital.

This man was pinned under wreckage and was fortunate to be saved with the help of a Red Cross unit. Image taken by Alfred T. Palmer in 1941.

Not all field work occurred during the war. These masked volunteers were part of the St. Louis Motorcorps during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic that took the lives of between 50 and 100 million victims.

Dogs

These days, most dogs enrolled in the Red Cross are therapy dogs, but during the first World War, search and rescue dogs were a vital part of the organization’s field work.

The dogs, equipped with a vest adorned with the foundation’s iconic logo, would be sent out to help track down injury victims like this man.

During the team’s downtime, the pups would also serve as friends and comrades of those assigned to the field.

To be fair, Sandy here wasn’t part of the organization’s search and rescue team, but the adorable pup did live at one of the group’s headquarters and certainly helped raise the spirits of the sick and wounded who spent time there.

Hospitals

Of course, once injury victims were rescued from the field, they had to be brought to a hospital. The Red Cross also maintained many of these facilities, especially during wartime when the majority of staff would likely be enrolled in the war effort.

Aside from physical care, Red Cross nurses were well known for the care and compassion they gave to injured servicemen, even spending holidays with them when they were unable to see their families.

During WWII, the organization trained over 100,000 women to serve as nurse's aides in order to help treat and comfort injured soldiers. This was a particularly valuable position at the time as hospitals around the world were understaffed.

This entire hospital in Australia was built by the US for the support of their troops and staffed by Red Cross workers.

Care Packages

Providing prisoners of war and disaster victims with food and other supplies has been an important part of the group’s work for years and those receiving the packages are certainly happy to get them.

A group of WWI Red Cross girls was carefully preparing care packages for unknown recipients when the photographer captured this image.

By WWII, things had become a lot more streamlined with assembly lines helping to prepare 2,000 packages an hour, tightly banded by these strapping young lads.

These three Belgian prisoners of war locked up in a German camp show just how much they appreciated receiving a Red Cross delivery, containing food, cigarettes and more.

Fundraising

Naturally, paying for the organization’s work isn’t cheap, even with all the volunteers they have. That’s why the Red Cross is always doing fundraising…and they have been since they started.

Booths like this helped attract both volunteers and donations during WWI, making them doubly effective.

Bananas were particularly rare throughout most of the twenties as the most common variety, Gros Michel, was ravaged by Panama disease and the modern varieties we enjoy were not readily available yet. As a result, this banana auction fundraiser held by the Red Cross in 1925 probably raised quite a bit of cash. Of course, the cute little Red Cross baby certainly didn’t hurt either.

Fair booths continued to be utilized in WWII, as seen in this 1942 Russell Lee photograph from the Imperial County Fair.

Celebrities

These days, Jackie Chan, Kristen Bell and Tony Hawk are just a few of the celebrities who actively work to promote the Red Cross, but recruiting celebrities is hardly a new idea for the foundation. Here are a few of their earliest celebrity members.

Perhaps the most famous member of the Red Cross during WWI was the beautiful Princess Mary, seen here with her mother (and grandmother of Queen Elizabeth), Queen Mary.

Just like today, the foundation continued to recruit celebrity members even when there was no major world crisis. In fact, President Coolidge signed up at the start of his presidency in 1923.

The foundation didn’t just attract political icons either: baseball player Christy Mathewson, one of the first five players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, participated in this fundraising photo opportunity during WWI.

As the film industry started to become a big deal, the Red Cross began asking actors to join their ranks. Here you see silent film and stage actresses Frances Starr and Bijou Fernandez counting money collected at the National Red Cross Pageant in 1917.

In 1938, popular actors Johnnie Davis and Wayne Morris enrolled in the foundation as well.

Blood Drives

As long as blood transfusions have been a regular medical procedure, the Red Cross has been there to collect blood and plasma donations.

Say what you will about prisoners, but they can be a darn patriotic bunch, or at least they were back in 1943. When the Red Cross visited San Quentin to receive blood donations, over 300 men volunteered – more than twice the number the foundation actually had the capacity to take donations from during their visit.

Here’s another shot from the San Quentin blood drive. It was common for the organization to visit prisons and other institutions back then, and as long as they had people willing to donate, they were willing to collect the donations.

While prisoners may or may not be as patriotic as they once were, there’s one group that certainly is – firefighters. Now seventy years later, if America started fighting in another major war, you bet you’d see firefighters, just like this one from New York, donating as much blood as the Red Cross would let them.

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Health
The First Shot to Stop Chronic Migraines Just Secured FDA Approval
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Migraine sufferers unhappy with current treatments will soon have a new option to consider. Aimovig, a monthly shot, just received approval from the Food and Drug Administration and is now eligible for sale, CBS News reports. The shot is the first FDA-approved drug of its kind designed to stop migraines before they start and prevent them over the long term.

As Mental Floss reported back in February before the drug was cleared, the new therapy is designed to tackle a key component of migraine pain. Past studies have shown that levels of a protein called calcitonin gene–related peptide (CGRP) spike in chronic sufferers when they're experiencing the splitting headaches. In clinical trials, patients injected with the CGRP-blocking medicine in Aimovig saw their monthly migraine episodes cut in half (from eight a month to just four). Some subjects reported no migraines at all in the month after receiving the shot.

Researchers have only recently begun to untangle the mysteries of chronic migraine treatment. Until this point, some of the best options patients had were medications that weren't even developed to treat the condition, like antidepressants, epilepsy drugs, and Botox. In addition to yielding spotty results, many of these treatments also come with severe side effects. The most serious side effects observed in the Aimovig studies were colds and respiratory infections.

Monthly Aimovig shots will cost $6900 a year without insurance. Now that the drug has been approved, a flood of competitors will likely follow: This year alone, three similar shots are expected to receive FDA clearance.

[h/t CBS News]

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Medicine
The 98.6℉ Myth: Why Everything You Think You Know About Body Temperature Is a Lie
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When you were kid, you probably knew that to score a magical sick day home from school, you needed to have a fever. When the thermometer came out of your mouth, it had to read higher than 98.6℉—the long-accepted "normal" human body temperature. (If you wanted to really seal the deal, you may have hoped to hit 100℉.) Since then, you may have used a temperature above 98.6℉ as a metric to work from home (or call out sick entirely).

But here's the thing: The average body temperature isn't actually 98.6℉—a fact that we've known for more than 25 years. The myth originated in the 19th century with a single doctor, and despite evidence to the contrary, it's persisted ever since.

THE GIANT—AND FAULTY—ARMPIT THERMOMETER

In 1851, Carl Wunderlich, the director of the hospital at Leipzig University, began going from room to room with a comically large thermometer in tow. He wanted to understand how body temperature is affected by different diseases, so in each room, he would hold the foot-long device in patients' armpits for a full 20 minutes, waiting for a temperature to register. Once it did, he'd note the temperature on the patient's chart (Wunderlich is thought to be the first physician to do so). He and his staff did this for years, repeatedly taking the temperatures of some 25,000 patients and logging them on their charts, until he had millions of readings. In 1868, he finally published this data in Das Verhalten der Eigenwarme in Krankheiten (On the Temperature in Diseases: A Manual of Medical Thermometry). He concluded that the average human body temperature was 98.6℉, underscoring the idea that fever is a symptom of illness, not a cause.

No one questioned Wunderlich's methods, or his average, for about 140 years. Then, in the early 1990s, internist Philip Mackowiak—a professor of medicine at the University of Maryland, a medical historian, and, apparently, a clinical thermometer junkie—saw one of the physician's instruments at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia. He told the Freakonomics podcast that he'd always had doubts about the 98.6℉ standard. "I am by nature a skeptic," he said. "And it occurred to me very early in my career that this idea that 98.6 was normal, and then if you didn't have a temperature of 98.6, you were somehow abnormal, just didn't sit right."

Getting his hands on Wunderlich's thermometer—which the museum let him borrow—only deepened his doubts. The huge thermometer was unwieldy and non-registering, meaning, Mackowiak explained, "that it has to be read while it's in place." Not only that, but Wunderlich had used the device to measure temperatures in the armpit, which is less reliable than temperatures taken in the mouth or rectum. The instrument itself also wasn't terribly precise: It measured up to 2 degrees Centigrade higher than both ancient and modern instruments.

In 1992, Mackowiak decided to test Wunderlich's average. Using normal-sized oral thermometers and a group of volunteers, he determined that the average human body temperature actually hovers around 98.2℉. Mackowiak found that body temperature tends to vary over the course of the day, with its lowest point around 6 a.m. and its highest in the early evening. Body temperature can also fluctuate monthly (with the menstrual cycle) and over a lifetime (declining decade by decade with age), and may even be differentially linked to sex and race assignments. He concluded that normal body temperature is so unique to each person that it's almost like a fingerprint and, given that wide variation, not actually a very reliable indicator of illness.

As a result of his study, Mackowiak proposed raising the threshold for fever to 98.9℉ for temperatures taken in the morning (and 99.9℉ at other times). While it's a relatively minor change in terms of actual degrees, this fever threshold is actually lower than the CDC's, which is a temperature of 100.4℉ or higher.

There are potential real-life consequences in this gap, for everyone from students (who'd have to attend school with what would be considered a low-grade fever by Wunderlich's 98.6℉ standard) to employers and daycares (who use temperature to set attendance policies). What's more, anyone who is actually sick but ignores a low-grade fever—one that meets Mackowiak's threshold but still falls under the CDC's—could pose a risk to people with compromised immune systems trying to avoid unnecessary exposure to illness in public places.

THE BALANCING POINT

There's a reason the average trends near 98℉ instead of 92℉ or 106℉. As endotherms, mammals expend a great deal of energy maintaining body temperature when compared with cold-blooded creatures. To find and conserve a just-right body temperature, central nervous system sensors gather data (too warm? too cold? just right, Goldilocks?) and send that information to the pebble-sized hypothalamus near the base of the brain. There, the data is converted into action: releasing sweat and widening the blood vessels if too warm; raising metabolism, constricting the blood vessels, and inducing shivering if too cold.

According to a study by Aviv Bergman and Arturo Casadevall in the journal mBio, the precise balancing point for ideal body temperature is the sweet spot where the metabolic cost for all this thermoregulation balances with the evolutionary advantage of warding off fungal disease. (While warm-blooded animals are prone to bacterial or viral infections, they rarely experience fungal infections because most fungi can't withstand temperatures above 86℉. Cold-blooded animals, on the other hand, are prone to all three.) For Bergman and Casadevall, this benefit even explains what tipped Darwin's scales in favor of mammals, allowing them to edge out other vertebrates for dominance after the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction wiped out the dinosaurs.

Of course, rules call for exceptions, and the one place where human body temperature demonstrates sustained elevation is outer space. Astronauts on prolonged missions clock significantly higher average body temperatures than they do when terrestrial—even up to 104℉. This so-called "space fever" is probably a product of some combination of radiation exposure, psychological stress, and immune response to weightlessness. Researchers believe this phenomenon could yield crucial information about thermoregulation—and may even offer insight into how humans might adapt to climate change.

WHY THE MYTH PERSISTS

It's been 26 years since Mackowiak's study, yet the newer data has not taken hold among medical professionals or the public. What gives?

Mackowiak tells Mental Floss that he finds it a bit mystifying that the myth persists, especially since many people, when pressed, know that the so-called "average" temperature varies. Part of the problem may be psychological: We cling to beliefs despite evidence to the contrary—a phenomenon called belief perseverance [PDF]. It's a significant force upholding a surprising number of medical myths. The idea humans should drink eight glasses of water a day? Not science. Sugar causes hyperactive behavior? Nope. Reading in dim light harms eyesight? Not really.

Unlearning persistent myths—especially ones loaded with the weight of medical authority—is difficult. "Deep down, under it all," Mackowiak says, "people want simple answers for things."

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