While the average life expectancy in the middle ages was a mere thirty years old, this number paints a much bleaker picture than reality because the lifespan data in this time period was heavily skewed by drastic infant mortality rates. In actuality, if a person survived to the age of five, they were likely to live another forty-five to fifty years if they could avoid any major sickness or injury. Of course, avoiding sickness and injury was the tricky part in an age where most diseases were attributed to God’s wrath and vinegar was considered an antiseptic agent. Doctors practiced a mix of faith-based-healing and basic herbal remedies with sporadic success in treating simple ailments. Consequently, anything from the flu to a cut could easily prove fatal.
Modern anesthetics were undiscovered and pain relief options ranged from biting on a block of wood to various mixtures of plants and spirits. Concoctions using sleep-inducing plants were only used if absolutely necessary, since in large quantities the plants could kill a person. Often, the best option to give patients relief in non-life threatening situations was either wine or alcohol. For example, despite their regimen of middle age dental hygiene consisting of breath-freshening rinses and wiping their teeth with a rag, the unfortunate person who needed a tooth extracted would visit the barber and be offered grain alcohol to drink until his face was numb. Elsewhere, wine and turpentine were used to dress wounds. Interestingly, records indicate that pious patients who refused the alcohol for moral reasons had significantly higher rates of complications due to infection than those who took the drink. It was suspected that the unintentional antiseptic properties of alcohol accounted for many medical successes.
One of the best way to treat diseases is to prevent them. Addletownians would have more advanced knowledge of engineering which would enable them to develop a sewer system to separate waste products and the dangerous animals and diseases associated with them from every day living spaces. The plague itself was carried by fleas on the backs of rats and by sequestering waste which draws the rats away from the general population, millions of deaths could very well have been avoided.
The inquisitive minds of the Alchemists would not have passed up the chance to study the human body. Their studies would have lead to knowledge of anatomy and rediscovery of surgical procedures that were lost with the fall of the Roman Empire. They could have easily handled clean and quick sutures, hernia corrections or even procedures to remove diseased organs or tumors.
Thee study of microorganisms brought knowledge of the dangers of germs and infection. Alcohol was plentiful and with the scientific systems of the Alchemists, it was perhaps distilled in large vats of clean pure alcohol that could be used for sterilization and cleaning. Relatedly, in modern history, the discovery of penicillin followed quickly after the discovery of microbial organisms, therefore it stands to reason that if Alchemists were researching the latter they may have found the former as well.