Skip to main content
Log in

“Feed a cold, starve a fever” — folk models of infection in an english suburban community, and their relation to medical treatment

  • Published:
Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

This paper outlines a widely-held conception of illness, related to perceived changes in body temperature — ‘Chills’ and ‘Colds’ on one hand, ‘Fevers’ on the other — in an English suburban community on the outskirts of London. The relationship between this folk model, and that of the local family physicians is analysed, to show how biomedical treatment and concepts, particularly the germ theory of disease, far from challenging the folk model, actually reinforce it. Remedies which cannot be scientifically and biomedically justified are nevertheless prescribed by the physicians to meet their patients' need to ‘make sense’ of biomedical treatment in terms of their folk model of illness. At the interface between physician and patient, biomedical diagnoses and treatment are more ‘negotiable’ than previously realised — and this has important implications for the delivery of health care.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  • Blacow, Norman W. 1972 Martindale: The Extra Pharmacopoeia, 26th Edition. London: Pharmaceutical Press. P. 228.

    Google Scholar 

  • Byrne, Patrick S. and Barrie Long 1976 Doctors Talking to Patients: A Study of the Verbal Behaviour of General Practitioners Consulting in their Surgeries. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office. Pp. 93–94.

    Google Scholar 

  • Camp, John 1976 Therapeutic Mud-Slinging. World Medicine 11: 70–76.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cartwright, Ann and Maureen O'Brien 1976 Social class variations in health care and in the nature of general practitioner consultations. In The Sociology of the National Health Service, Margaret Stacey, ed. London: Croom Helm. Pp. 77–94.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cassell, Eric J. 1976 The Healer's Art: A New Approach to the Doctor-Patient Relationship. New York: Lippincott. Pp. 47–83.

    Google Scholar 

  • Chatton, M. J., Sheldon Margen and H. Brainerd, eds. 1970 Handbook of Medical Treatment. Los Altos: Lange. pp. 5–6.

    Google Scholar 

  • Crystal, David 1976 The diagnosis of sociolinguistic problems in doctor patient interaction. In Language and Communication in Medical Practice, B. Tanner, ed. London: Hodder and Stoughton. P. 49.

    Google Scholar 

  • Douglas, Mary 1970 Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. London: Penguin Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dunnell, Karen and Ann Cartwright 1972 Medicine Takers, Prescribers, and Hoarders. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

    Google Scholar 

  • Eisenberg, Leon 1977 Disease and illness: Distinctions between professional and popular ideas of sickness. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 1: 9–23.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fabrega, Horacio 1973 Illness and Shamanistic Curing in Zinancantan: An Ethnomedical Analysis. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fabrega, Horacio 1975 The need for an ethnomedical science. Science 189: 969–975.

    Google Scholar 

  • Foster, George M. 1976 Disease aetiologies in non-Western medical systems. American Anthropologist 78: 773–781.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fox, Renee C. 1968 Illness. In International Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, Vol. 7: 90–95. New York: Free Press/Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  • Garrod, Lawrence P. and Francis O'Grady 1968 Antibiotics and Chemotherapy. London: Livingstone. Pp. 255, 427.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gill, Derek G. 1976 The reorganisation of the National Health Service: Some sociological aspects with special references to the role of the community physician. In The Sociology of the National Health Service. Margaret Stacey, ed. London: Croom Helm. Pp. 9–21.

    Google Scholar 

  • Goodman, Louis S. and Alfred Gilman 1965 The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics. New York: Macmillan, London: Collier-Macmillan. Pp. 313–314, 328, 329.

    Google Scholar 

  • Harman, J. B. et al., eds. 1976 British National Formulary 1976–78. London: British Medical Association. Pp. 63, 115.

    Google Scholar 

  • Harrison, D. F. N. 1976 Nasal Drops, Sprays and Inhalations. Prescribers Journal 16: 69–74.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hughes, Charles C. 1968 Ethnomedicine. In International Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, Vol. 10: 87–93. New York: Free Press/Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  • Inglis, Brian 1964 Fringe Medicine. London: Faber and Faber.

    Google Scholar 

  • Levitt, Ruth 1976 The Reorganised National Health Service. London: Croom Helm.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lewis, Gilbert 1975 Knowledge of Illness in a Sepik Society. London: The Athlone Press. Pp. 146–151.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lewis, I. M. 1971 Ecstatic Religion: An Anthropological Study of Spirit Possession and Shamanism. London: Penguin Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Maclean, Kenneth and George Scott 1968 Medical Treatment, Vol. 1. London: J. & A. Churchill. P. 178.

    Google Scholar 

  • Marinker, Marshall 1976 The myth of family medicine. World Medicine 11: 17–19.

    Google Scholar 

  • Marsh, Geoffrey and Peter Kaim-Caudle 1976 Team Care in General Practice. London: Croom Helm.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mellor, Constance 1975 Natural Remedies for Common Ailments. St. Albans: Mayflower Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mitchell, William E. 1977 Changing Others: The Anthropological Study of Therapeutic Systems. Medical Anthropology Newsletter 8, No. 3: 15–19.

    Google Scholar 

  • Morrell, D. C. 1971 Expressions of morbidity in general practice. British Medical Journal 2: 454.

    Google Scholar 

  • Morrell, D. C. 1972 Symptom interpretation in general practice. Journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners 22: 297–309.

    Google Scholar 

  • Prince, Raymond 1964 Indigenous Yoruba psychiatry. In Magic, Faith, and Healing. Ari Kiev, ed. New York: The Free Press. Pp. 84–118.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rose, Louis 1971 Faith Healing. London: Penguin Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stacey, Margaret, ed. 1976 The Sociology of the National Health Service. London: Croom Helm.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stimson, Gerry and Barbara Webb 1975 Going to See the Doctor — The Consultation Process in General Practice. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

    Google Scholar 

  • Trethowan, W. H. 1975 Pills for personal problems. British Medical Journal 3: 749–751.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wilkes, E. 1974 The treatment of cough in general practice. Prescribers Journal 14: 98–103.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Helman, C.G. “Feed a cold, starve a fever” — folk models of infection in an english suburban community, and their relation to medical treatment. Cult Med Psych 2, 107–137 (1978). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00054580

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00054580

Keywords

Navigation