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This chapter considers the different types of respiratory diseases, petxukoak (Astigarraga-G), which, in turn, are not easy to distinguish between, as is the case with resfriado (head colds), constipado (common colds), catarro (chest colds) and flu. Some begin with an ailment in one part of the body that then affects another, such as a constipado that becomes a catarro and affects first the nose and can then spread to the throat or chest. The same happens with the remedies, as even though there are some specific ones for a certain ailment, there are others that are applied indiscriminately for different types of illnesses.

The survey data shows that people use constipado for the ailment that affects the nose, causes it to block up, sneezing, a great deal of phlegm and may be complicated with headaches and earaches. In some locations, constipado and catarro are synonyms and are used indiscriminately. Catarro, in general, is an ailment that is mainly in the throat and its typical symptom is a cough, even though it can become serious and affect other parts of the body.

In general, it can be said that resfriados are attributed to abrupt changes in the weather, to the cold and to getting soaked, and it is known that they are contagious (Carranza-B, Apodaca-A). The advice in the past to avoid colds was to wear shoes and to get out of wet clothes (Liginaga-Z). There are periods of the year, such as winter, when people are more likely to get cold, as is the case of summer with diarrhoea, which is why they are called “seasonal illnesses” in some places.

The symptoms of a catarro, apart from generally feeling ill, are frequently sneezing and congestion or cargazón of the nose and sometimes of the head, eyes and ears. As the cold progresses, it tends to move along the airways "down to the chest”. One of the most typical consequences of a catarro is moquitera or intense nasal discharge (Carranza).

Different types of colds were mentioned in the surveyed locations: head, nose, runny nose, common cold, sore throats, chest colds, and bronchitis. Reference was also made to flu, sinusitis and asthma.

It is usually claimed that a cold would go away by itself in a fortnight and in two weeks if something is taken, as there is no known cure.

In the 1940s, Iribarren found that people put illnesses down to three causes - chills, weakness and indigestion -, and one of the common deadly diseases was what they called pasmo pasáu, in other words relapsing after getting chilled.

Sore throats, eztarriko mina

Resorting to heat to make the body sweat, being confined to bed, hot drinks and applying homemade remedies when someone has a cool, and with a sore throat and cough, have been common treatments. Apart from sore throats, the surveys included other ailments in this section such as tonsillitis and hoarseness, and even flu which can also be related.

Chest cold, bularrestua

If colds affecting the upper airways are not looked after, they "go down to the chest" and those chest colds, considered more serious than common colds, are known for causing a continuous cough and for it being impossible to cough up phlegm. In the case of a very bad chest cold, the patient makes a characteristic noise known as the chest rattling when they breathe. The treatment of those conditions is aimed at the patient “getting rid of the phlegm so the cold can move on”. Certain people, including those with bronchial problems, are considered to be more prone to “get chest colds” and therefore need to take greater care when treating any common cold (Carranza-B). Chest colds, bularrestua, have also been defined as a heavy cold with a rattling noise that makes it very difficult to breath and which makes the chest feel tight (Nabarniz-B).

Pneumonia, alborengoa

Pneumonia was a dreaded disease, the most important given its severity among chest illnesses, which would sometime end in double pneumonia[1] (Carranza, Orozko-B). It was said to be a novena illness as the patient either was cured or died in the nine-day period (Hondarribia-G); “if the pneumonia does not start to improve on the 9th day, the person dies” (San Martín de Unx-N) or if the pneumonia was not detected in the first nine days, the patient could not be saved. After five or six days, the patients would be unruly and, often, had to be tied to the bed (Abadiano-B).

In the past, when a person was confined in bed with a serious illness, such as pneumonia, rubbing alcohol with a little bay or rosemary blessed on Palm Sunday would be burned in the room (Hondarribia).

  1. The term “double pneumonia" was widely in the Basque Country and meant that the ailment had spread to both lungs or it was in a very advanced and irreversible stage.