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'Sphagnol soap' cake, London, England, 1945-1960

‘Sphagnol soap’ was used to treat a range of skin inflammation and irritations including acne, eczema, chilblains, dandruff, insect bites and ringworm. The name ‘sphagnol’ refers to an extract from peat believed to have antiseptic properties. It was made by Peat Products (Sphagnol) Ltd and was used during both World Wars by the British Red Cross to treat facial wounds and trench sores. This particular example is described as a ‘toilet and nursery antiseptic’ – locations viewed as particularly in need of good hygiene.

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Glossary: first aid

Treatment that is rendered initially for the care of an emergent condition. It is usually performed by a lay person to a sick or injured patient until definitive medical treatment can be accessed

Glossary: soap

No description.

Glossary: antiseptic

A chemical that destroys or holds back the growth of bacteria and harmful micro-organisms. It can be used to cleanse skin wounds and treat some internal infections if it is sufficiently non-toxic.

Glossary: eczema

A common skin disease where the skin becomes inflamed, it is characterized by itching and bleeding.

Glossary: inflammation

The body’s response to injury. An inflammation is marked by redness, heat, pain, swelling, and often loss of function. The process leads to the elimination of noxious agents and of damaged tissue.

Glossary: chilblains

A red itchy swelling that is caused when the skin is exposed to cold weather.

Glossary: ringworm

An infection of the skin. Ringworm causes a reddish blemish with a light centre that resembles a 'ring'

Glossary: acne

A disorder of the skin in which the glands producing oily matter become inflamed. It is characterized by blackheads, pustules and even scars. There are a number of treatments available. Acne particularly affects teenagers.