Sodium Hyposulphite as a Prophylactic in Smallpox



I have depended on sodium hyposulphite to ward off smallpox among those who had been vaccinated successfully, and unvaccinated as well, and it has never failed to prevent the eruption in any case, where administered within three days after the exposure to contagion. My attention was called to its use by an old prospector in the mountains.

One morning early, he called at my office with the question, doctor, can you tell what is the matter with my face?

His face was well covered with the characteristic variola eruption. I answered accordingly and advised that he go to his shack and arrange for proper care while the case lasted. He replied that all he wanted was to know whether or not he had smallpox, and if such were the case he could handle it easily, and all he wanted was a pound of sodium hyposulphite. He went to the drug store and procured the medicine, went to his room, made a solution of about 60 grains and drank it. This he repeated often enough to keep his bowels moving freely as long as there was any fever.

He also prepared a saturated solution of the hyposulphite and used it as a wash for his face, using it as hot as he could stand it every two or three hours, at first. After two or three applications, the eruption began to show signs of subsiding on all parts to which the wash had been applied. There was no formation of pus in any portion of the eruption treated locally; where not treated locally the pustules ran their regular course, filled and desquamated in due time. On the parts treated locally, the eruption turned bluish and never filled; there was only a slight scaling off of epidermis.

This set me to thinking, with the result that I determined to give sodium hyposulphite a thorough test at the first opportunity. The opportunity came three years later.

A visitor came to the residence of one of my patrons, stayed over night, woke up with high fever and muscles aching severely, thought he had lagrippe and sent for quinine and whisky; this he took freely all day; result no better; next morning he was still suffering and found his face covered with pimples, as he expressed it. I was called at this stage, diagnosed smallpox, put him on the hyposulphite, but could not get him to take it freely, or submit to the hot bath after the first; there was very little pus in the facial eruption but a good crop on other portions of his body. He made a rapid and good recovery. Now comes the important point-so far this has been written for the purpose of explanation.

The family consisted of four persons, the man and his wife, who had both been vaccinated, a sixteen-year-old boy, and a girl of fourteen, neither having been vaccinated.

I at once put all four on twenty grain doses of sodium hyposulphite, and kept them repeating the dose three times daily. At end of ten days the man and woman had the characteristic fever with the aching limbs and head. This lasted forty-eight hours, then subsided slowly without any eruption. The woman had fever, headache, sore muscles and aching limbs four days, when the symptoms passed away without any eruption.

The boy and the girl both failed to have any symptoms of fever, and were not affected in any way.

This whole family lived in a small three-room house and all took turns caring for the visitor. I am confident that sodium hyposulphite will abort smallpox if the treatment is begun within two or three days after a known exposure. It has been used in several other cases with equally good results.

Ellingwood's Therapeutist, Vol. 2, 1908, was edited by Finley Ellingwood M.D.