What's up with the bandanna?

A professor and I were discussing childhood illnesses this afternoon. I shared that I had never had the chicken pox, and she shared that she almost died from whooping cough. The talk then turned to mumps, which neither of us ever had (but had of course been immunized against). I vaguely recalled that perhaps one of my siblings had had them, while she insisted that she had never known anyone who claimed to have gone through the rather humiliating illness. She said “isn’t that the one where they tie your head together with a bandanna to keep it from swelling out of control?” I replied that perhaps she was thinking of cartoons of people with toothaches, where they had the bandage on their head to hold ice. The more we thought about it, the less both of our explanations seemed to make sense(though I kind of like the imagery with hers). So, I turn to the teeming millions… what’s up with the bandanna? Do (did) they use it for mumps cases, as the prof thinks, or only for toothaches? And what is its purpose?


Ashy has a dirty mind. The phrase ‘head swelling rapidly out of control’ popped in and he thought of something else entirely.

Mumps involves a viral infection in the salivary glands. Since the specific ones affected are between the ears and jaw, they tend to cause a painful swelling in the head and face.

Like toothaches–the swelling and pain can be relieved with ice. So it’s likely that the bandanna is used in -both- cases–to hold ice.

By the way–welcome to the SDMB.

The word bandanna sounds Spanish, right? Actually it comes from from Hindi, derived from Sanskrit bandhana ‘tying, binding’. The Sanskrit word is from the same Indo-European root as English band, bind, bond, bound.