Water in Pediatrics.
JOHN FEARN, M. D., OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA
What a wonderful boon to man is pure water. 'Tis a boon to the sick and to the well, to the young, and to the old.
By long observation I come to the conclusion, that water is not used among the sick as much as it should be; especially amongst infants.
Let me illustrate. Many years ago I was called to administer to a child in the night. As I stood by the bedside, how it did cry. I watched it closely for a little while, and soon came to the conclusion, that its cry was not from pain, but from want. And that want was water. I fed cold water to it, and how eagerly it drank it down, and when it had received sufficient, it fell into a sound refreshing sleep.
My diagnosis was specific. And my remedy was specific. I never forgot it. I say let the child have plenty of water. What does it do ? It soothes and cools the gums and the inflamed glands in the buccal cavity. It cleanses the stomach, it increases the action of skin, kidneys and bowels. And by all these means it lessens fever. This water may be plain or it may be medicated by alkalies or acids, &c. Then think of its value in flushing the bowels. Surely no doctor who has seen its use would think of treating bad cases of colic, cholera infantum, typhoid fever, dysentery, or any form of feculent diarrhea, without using bowel lavement. A few weeks ago I was called to see an infant four weeks old. I was informed it had cried almost ever since it was born. I came to the conclusion that it was a case of severe colic, largely due to artificial feeding, the mother's milk having been dried up. The colic had continued so long that the bowels and stomach were very tender. Attention to food and giving simple remedies did a great deal. One teaspoonful of tincture of asafoetida added to warm water half a pint was slowly passed into the bowels. It soon came back with a considerable discharge of gas, and the child was much relieved. Then think of the local application of water, either hot or cold as the physician shall indicate, by packs; to the abdomen in enteritis and gastritis; to the chest in pneumonia and pleurisy; to the throat in laryngitis and tonsilitis; over the bladder in cystitis; and also to the joints in arthritis. In using these packs be sure that they are properly applied. See that the wet flannel is well covered with oil silk and over all dry pads; in this way the moisture and heat are kept in, and the bedclothes are kept perfectly dry. In cases of severe sciatica, few procedures will bring such relief to the sufferers as a well applied pack, medicated as specific conditions may indicate.
In fevers with very high temperature a good blanket or wet sheet pack, enclosing the patient from head to foot, will do more for the patient's comfort, will bring down temperature quicker and will do it more safely and much quicker, than any coal tar preparation ever made. And, in my opinion, it is far better than the old-fashioned steam or vapor bath, and this is saying much, for this writer has seen those procedures do wonders for the sick, breaking up fevers and congestions, and restoring very sick people to a normal condition in a surprisingly short time.
Now what shall be said about foot baths, sitz baths, and full baths in diseases of childhood? I say their effects are simply marvelous. No one who has not witnessed their effects can have the faintest idea of the therapeutic worth of these procedures.
Let me close with one illustration: Over thirty years ago I was called to see a little boy very sick with scarlet fever. It was a home of comfort and plenty. But it was their only child and they feared he would be lost as so many others had in that neighborhood, for the disease had been very fatal. Temperature was very high, the skin hot and dry, the brain surcharged with blood, the eyes bright and staring and the boy almost worn out for lack of sleep. How anxiously those parents waited for the doctor's prognosis. Was there any hope? I told them if they would give the boy a hot bath as I would suggest, he might be saved. But they durst not take the responsibility of putting him in a bath. They begged me to stay and see to giving the bath. A very large milk can, such as were used to carry milk to the cheese factory, was brought into requisition, the boy was placed therein and water as warm as could be comfortably borne was poured in until it came up over his shoulders. Then a turban was made of several thicknesses of flannel, this was placed on his head. I then took a big jug of cold water and very slowly poured this over the turban till every part was thoroughly wet. The head soon became cool, the eyes less bright and staring, the skin softened. He was lifted from the water, rolled in a blanket put into bed. In a few minutes he was in a refreshing sleep, and after a long sleep he woke up, the fever abated. The crisis was passed, he was safe, and those people said they had never seen anything like it. And I am of the opinion that there is no medicine known to physicians, that could do such good work in so short a time, as that simple application of hot and cold water.
Moral: In Pediatrics never forget water inside and outside. I used to tell my classes in The California Medical College, that if in my practice I had to give up either medicine or water, sticking to only one, I would give up medicine and keep to water.— Transactions National Association.
Ellingwood's Therapeutist, Vol. 2, 1908, was edited by Finley Ellingwood M.D.