Plague Doctor Methods

What was a Plague Doctor?

The Plague Doctor could be described as a Doctor who specialized in treating the ‘Bubonic Plague’ in fact that’s exactly what a plague doctors did!

They were drafted in by medieval towns and cities as soon as there were signs of any pandemic.

Unlike general practitioners doctors of the time ‘Plague Doctors’ just dealt with the ‘Bubonic Plague’.

Plague Doctor Mask Costume Hat

Plague Doctor Mask Costume Hat


Plague doctors had no formal education and most of their work was not based on proven results, in fact some medieval people thought them to be no better than shysters.

However they did seem to be some method behind the things that they used to try and cure the ‘Bubonic Plague’.

Success Rates

However it is probably safe to say that they had little if any success in curing the ‘Plague‘ and were often just there to make records of peoples condition and the number of dead in an attempt to better understand the disease

Plague Doctors Methods – Bloodletting

Plague doctors used a fairly common procedure used in medieval and ancient times called ‘bloodletting’ or blood-letting.

The theory behind blood-letting is an ancient one going back 2000 years

This method attempts to re-balance what is calls the ‘4 Humors’ which is basically four bodily fluids with one being blood.

It was thought that the withdrawal of blood from the patient helped this balance the four humors and that it could cure the disease and illness.

A plague doctor would place leeches or sometimes frogs on the buboes (large painful swellings or lumps) of the patient to “re-balance these four humors” and this was a common practice at the time.

Sometimes they even put onions and snake pieces on the buboes!

Plague Doctor Methods

Plague Doctor Methods Blood Letting Sucking leech


Buboes are large painful swellings or lumps in the armpits, thighs, neck or groin region and are a symptom of catching the bubonic plague.

The plague bacteria replicate in these areas causing the swelling and if these areas being broken a large amount of pus comes out of the wounds.

Plague Doctor Methods Hand Bubonic Plague

Plague Doctor Methods Hand Bubonic Plague

End of Bloodletting

With modern technology it is now known that in most cases, bloodletting is harmful to patients.