The frequency and nature of the bath should be such as to conform to the precise conditions of the person. Good judgment of temperaments, whether mental, vital, or motive, or a modification of two or more of these must be carefully studied. It should also be taken into consideration whether the different temperaments that predominate are fully developed or not. The mental organization especially should be considered carefully. Reaction of the system, whether acid or alkaline is another prominent factor.
The physical as well as the mental condition of a person in general must be carefully studied. To sum up the bath requires a careful study, and much more attention should be paid to its use scientifically.
Frequent baths are beneficial to some people while to others they are harmful.
The anemic persons should not bathe as often as others who have a stronger constitution, more blood and where reaction is more easily established. This applies also to cold baths with the only difference that anemic people should not bathe in very cold water.
In cases where there is an acid condition of the system we think of adding some alkaline salts to bath, such as chloride of sodium, bicarbonate of sodium, etc.
If vapor baths are given we can medicate them by using the properly indicated remedies and better results follow in every case.
In dry and constricted skins and relaxed and enfeebled conditions, fatty innuctions are useful. In some cases stimulants are useful, in others essential oils may be combined.
When the skin is relaxed and enfeebled, tonic stimulants should be employed. If the skin is oily, alcohol baths are useful. A good rubbing down (after a bath) with alcohol, in these conditions, is very beneficial.
In strongly developed mental temperaments with a marked deficiency of the motive, very cold and frequent bathing is positively harmful. On the contrary a well-developed vital temperament will, as a rule, bear frequent baths well; such people can stand cold baths well if a moderate amount of the motive temperament is present. For these reasons it is a necessity for the physician to be a good judge of human nature and temperaments in order to do justice to his patients.
If a person feels weak or nauseated or gets a fainting sensation during a hot bath, be this water, vapor or dry hot air, it is harmful, If a person feels good after a cold bath, but at the same time gets weaker from time to time it shows that there is strength enough to cause a reaction, but that the system is not strong and cannot bear this extra strain.
If a cold bath chills a person, especially if we are unable to establish reaction it is decidedly harmful.
In jaundice, chronic or acute but especially in the former; or any condition where there is obstructed circulation in the liver or spleen, or both, hot baths and especially dry, hot baths are contra-indicated until such time as circulation has been fairly well established. As hot baths assist in increasing the circulation and in some cases markedly so, bile is secreted and there being obstruction the result is that a greater quantity is absorbed by the blood and the condition is made worse. A warm bath of short duration is admissible in these conditions.
Some oils have an affinity for cells and the tissues and therefore are readily absorbed by them if a small quantity is added to the water in which the bath is taken. If these oils have medical virtue in certain directions we should use them to meet the indications of the case. To illustrate, oil of eucalyptus 1/2 to 1 teaspoonful added to the water is splendid to cure colds and prevent taking cold.
Oil of rosemary or lavender flower oil are useful in neuralgia and rheumatic pains if not of an inflammatory nature. Of these 15 to 20 drops to a bath is generally sufficient.
Many medicines and oils are repellant to the cells, and if added to a bath have no value whatever.
In many conditions dry hot air baths are much more effective than vapor baths, because a higher temperature can be borne and for a much longer time. It has proved curative in many cases of rheumatism, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, tubercular joint disease, etc. Relieves the pain of any parts treated that have become hyperaemic, showing dilation of capillaries. Thus effusion and deposits of joints or anywhere else will be absorbed and adhesions broken tip. Ankylosis is removed, stiffened joints restored, inflammatory condition relieved and certain pathogenic germs destroyed on account of intense heat. Betz bath is a good apparatus, if well lined with asbestos.
The Materia Medica and Clinical Therapeutics, 1905, was written by Fred J. Petersen, M.D.