Controlling Infection

In a pre-antibiotic era, efforts to prevent infection were at the forefront of wound management. Explosive shells created deep, lacerated wounds and drove bacteria-rich soil into the body. Medical staff experimented with a variety of antiseptics and techniques and made liberal use of anti-tetanus serum—one of few treatments available that could target a specific infectious disease.

Drawing of a nurse treating a patient using Carrel-Dakin Solution, 1917
From The Washington Post

Antiseptic gauze, tablets, and powder, 1910–1920s
During the war, English chemist Henry Dakin developed a mild chlorine antiseptic (Chloramine) as an alternative to harsher antiseptics then in use, such as the mercury compound “corrosive sublimate.”
Gifts of E. R. Squibb & Sons, Ferris State College School of Pharmacy, and Blanche E. Reid

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Anti-tetanus serum and syringe, around 1920
Anti-tetanus serum, developed in the 1890s, was first used on a largescale in the war. It was injected into wounded soldiers as soon as possible to help prevent tetanus, an often-fatal infection.
Eleanor P. Custis and H. K. Mulford Company

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