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The majority of illnesses described in this chapter can also affect, and sometimes do, older people, but they usually affect children. Other ailments are similar to those affecting adults, but the treatment, the dosage of the remedies and other aspects mean that specific and special care has to be taken when they occur in children. The different illnesses have been grouped according to the general criteria followed in the book and are therefore divided into infectious, skin, digestive and respiratory conditions.

Infectious diseases

Contagious and infectious diseases can, occasionally, affect older people, but they are seen in children in a less severe way. The people surveyed sometimes confused them. Thus, as regards rash illnesses, the older people in Orozko (B) did not differentiate or recall the differences between measles, chicken pox, rubella and scarlet fever; in Bermeo (B), they did not make any difference between chicken pox or rubella from measles and in Bedarona (B), when defining definition, for example, of scarlet fever, they gave the symptoms of chicken pox. . In Bermeo as well, when talking about scarlet fever, one person surveyed mentioned the symptoms of diphtheria, as they said that the patients made a noise similar to a rooster’s and the illness could even lead to death by suffocation in extreme cases.

Nowadays, thanks to the medical campaigns and the benefits of vaccinating, the risks of getting these illnesses or suffering their consequences have decreased significantly.

Digestive ailments

Stomach ache

In Busturia, Carranza and Durango (B), children were given fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) for stomach ache and expel wind. Fennel seeds were collected, boiled and then given to the child. In Bedarona (B), they were given fennel water. In Amézaga de Zuya, Mendiola, Moreda (A) and Bidegoian (G), they made their own but also bought bags of fennel seeds from the chemist’s that they boiled in water and gave it to the infant in its bottle.

In Carranza, the daisies collected on St. John’s Day before the sun rose and which were then dried were “prepared like camomile tea” to stop stomach ache in small children. The people surveyed explained that when babies cried a lot and they knew it was due to stomach ache, they fried camomile heads in olive oil and then rubbed the child’s stomach with it. In Bedarona, children were given camomile tea diluted with water and when they had bad stomach ache, their mothers would rub the child’s stomach sometimes only with their hands and sometimes using the ashes from burning bay leaves burnt on Palm Sunday. In Durango, they were given camomile and fennel tea.

In Zerain (G), when children had stomach ache, a thick corn cake was made and put it on their stomach when hot. In Bidegoian (G), they heated corn cobs and placed them on the stomach while hot.

In Améscoa (N), when children had indigestions, a piece of melted chocolate was put on their stomach and held in place with a bandage.

Castor oil was also given to children to get rid of wind (Ribera Alta-A).


In Amézaga de Zuya, Bernedo, Mendiola, Vitoria (A); Muskiz (B); Astigarraga (G); Aoiz, Obanos and Merindad de Tudela (N), the top of a match (in Orozko-B, the bottom) in oil or soap and put in the anus, where it was left until the child had a movement (Bernedo). In Mendiola, they report that sometimes small and thin candles blessed on 2 February, Candlemas, were sometimes used instead of the match. This remedy has been replaced by using glycerine suppositories for babies with constipation.

In Carranza (B) and Allo[1] (N), calas were used for the children, in other words, candles or pieces of soap cut lengthwise and which was put in the child’s rectum; in Tiebas (N), they made a type of suppository with soap made at home and then later using Chimbo soap, and in Orozko, they used their hands to warm the soap and shape it into a wick.

Respiratory diseases

Some of the remedies applied for children’s respiratory ailments are similar to those for adults, except the age and condition of the child has to be taken into account when calculating the dose.

In Arraioz (N), one way of treating a child’s cold was to put the children naked in a cold water bath; in Sangüesa (N), they were given a syrup, called pan de pájaro, and made using daisies; in Moreda (A) they resorted to linseed poultices and in Amézaga de Zuya (A), they applied pepper and honey poultices if a child had bronchitis.

In Elosua (G), if a child had a chest cold, its chest and the soles of its feet would be rubbed with cognac and brown paper with a chocolate and tallow paste and covered with wadding was then placed on the child’s chest. The child would then be put in a warm vest and put to bed.

In Carranza (B), the cognac given for a cough was put in a container and set fire so the children did not take too much alcohol. It would be left to burn for some time “so that most of the alcohol was burnt off” and then what was left was added to milk with honey. In Ataun (G), they said that oregano herbal tea is good for a child’s cough.

A widespread custom is for small children to be hung upside down and hit on the back if they stop breathing or to make them burp.

  1. Ricardo ROS GALBETE. "Apuntes etnográficos y folklóricos de Allo (II)" in Cuadernos de Etnología y Etnografía de Navarra. Volume VIII. Pamplona: 1976, p. 458.