Sunday, 27 October 2013

19 June 1880 'Bright Eye and Teeth Like Pearl' by Medicus

"Do not read in bed; it is a slothful habit to say the very least of it." It's been too long since I transcribed a Medicus column. Today, as the title suggests, is about eye care and oral hygiene. Once you've used your mouthwash made from rosewater and potassium permanganate, be sure to brush with charcoal.

Bright eyes and pearly teeth. That is the dose your doctor brings you this week, and he does not think you'll require any coaxing or bribing with sugar-plums to make you take it either.

Bright eyes. Yes, I'll take the eyes first, because I don't think there is a single girl who reads these lines who does not wish to have beautiful eyes, and to know how to keep them so. I have little to say about the actual colour of the iris. This may be as dark and deep as caves of ocean, or blue as the forget-me-not, and each colour and every colour will find admirers, but even the iris may lack lustre when late hours have been kept or over indulgence in sweets and dainties has brought on a fit of indigestion. Over-tiredness and worry, too, makes the iris look less brilliant in this way; the pupil, that is the black point in the centre, becomes smaller, is contracted, and this gives to the eye what some might be rude enough to call a fishy appearance. Before going to a party, some ladies I happen to know apply some mixture to the eyelid; it is easily washed off, and gives an extra brightness to the eye for the time being by enlarging the pupil. Before you go to a party, do nothing of the kind. I only mention the practice to put you on your guard against it. Good health and spirits will make your eyes sparkle more brightly than all the belladonna in the world. To say nothing of the danger to the eyesight, the languid, dreamy far-off look that the use of this drug at first gives to the eye is soon changed into one which I can only describe as decidedly lackadaisical and lack-lustrous. There are few blessings we possess equal to good eyesight, and we ought to take care of it in the days of youth.

The white of the eye, on the other hand, is very much affected by the state of the health and state of the stomach. If a girl really wants to look her best and brightest on any particular day she must take care to take plenty of exercise for some days beforehand, and take care what she eats and drinks as well. The slightest tinge of yellow in the white of the eye  makes a great difference, and detracts from the beauty of the whole face. This, however, can nearly always be avoided by keeping the general health up to the mark, early rising, fresh air, temperance in diet, peace of mind, and avoidance of late hours, and overindulgence in pastry or sweets.

Now, independent of the fact that a clear, healthy-looking eye is nearly always an indication of good sight, and that we can keep the eye healthy by keeping the body so, you must never forget that your eyesight is intended to be a blessing to you throughout life, and much may be done in youth to make it so.

"He that is stricken blind can ne'er forget / The previous treasure of his eyesight lost."

But there is a minor kind of blindness, if I may call it so, which young people can do much to avoid. I refer to defective vision and to weak eyes. The first is what is generally called short-sightedness. IN some cases a book printed in ordinary type cannot be read unless held close to the eyes. Now, although this state of the eyesight cannot be cured, it may be prevented, and when present it may usually be kept from getting worse, and on the other hand, if the ailment increases year by year there is a great chance of the sight being lost entirely.

In order then to preserve the sight, nothing that puts a strain upon it or tries it too much should be undertaken, or, if undertaken, should not be continued too long. Young folks should not read too small type, or do too fine drawing work, or very fine needlework; even the pens and ink they use should be of the best, and the desks at which they write ought to be high to prevent unnecessary stooping. The book that is read should be held up high and boldly at a reasonable distance from the face, and there should be no bending of the neck. The work done should not be continuous; frequent rest is imperative. All work and no play is very bad for Jack, and it isn't good for Jill.

Never read or sew in the dusk, and never read or sew in a powerful sunlight, or by the fierce glare of a lamp. Reading in railway carriages is also bad for the eyesight.

Glasses should not be worn without real necessity, and if they are they should not be strong ones.

I may add, as regards reading, that it is better to sit up while so engaged, and to throw down the book or magazine as soon as the eyes feel weak or the brain gets tired.

Again, do not read in bed; it is a slothful habit, to say the very least of it. There is a kind of weakness of the eyes that many girls complain of. Their eyes feel painful and hot, and tears come into them on the least excitement, or even when talking or laughing. This is a state of matters that cannot be removed by local treatment alone; it demands constitutional treatment as well, because it points to a feeble condition of the nerves and system generally.

Tonics should be had recourse to, the citrate of iron and quinine mixture should be taken with an occasional (about once a week) pill of aloes and myrrh. The chemist will give the dose according to the age. after taking the citrate of iron and quinine for a fortnight, small doses of the phosphate of iron, or almost any mild preparation of iron, may be taken for some time longer.

Cod liver oil should also be used along with the iron, and good, easily digested, nourishing diet, with plenty of eggs and cream, and exercise in the open air. The only local application likely to be of much service is cold water, bathing eyes and forehead three or four times a day. A weak solution of green tea makes a harmless and useful eye-wash, so does five drops of the tincture of arnica to one ounce of water.

A stye is a very common, and for the time being, very painful affliction of the eyelid. Hot fomentations and a bread poultice will make the matter point, when it may be let out with a fine pointed needle. At the same time a little rhubarb and magnesia should be taken to cool the blood. If styles are of frequent occurrence much good is done by a course of quinine and cod liver oil.

A good eye lotion for weak eyes may be made by dissolving a grain and a half of sulphate of zinc in an ounce of pure water, and adding fifteen drops of the wine of opium. Use it three or four times a day. Nothing is more beautiful in a young girl than long sweeping eyelashes.

Just one word about what are called preservers – those unsightly-looking, non-magnifying, blue spectacles that some people wear. They may be of use in places like Malta, where the sun glares and the red earth stares, and where only lizard can live in comfort at noon-tide, but I question whether yellow glasses of the colour photographers make use of as panes for their dark rooms would not be better and more natural. This hint may be taken for what it is worth.

And now for a word on the teeth. As you are well aware, these were not given to us merely to be ornamental, but to be useful as well. Mastication is the very first act in the process of digestion, and in order to prevent that most unpleasant ailment, indigestion, from which even young people at times suffer, our food must be thoroughly and not too quickly masticated in order to be properly triturated and mixed with the juices from the glands in the mouth. Eating quickly is not only not graceful, but it does positive harm, for it gives the stomach far more to do than it would otherwise have, and thus the liver is irritated and beauty often spoiled.

Many an early wrinkle might be traced to a restless night occasional by a slight attack of indigestion brought on probably by hurry to eating.

Well, if nature has furnished you with good teeth, it is your duty to make the best of them, for if the permanent teeth once fall out remember they will never come again.

The toothbrushes you use should not be too hard. I should recommend a medium hardness. The teeth ought to be cleansed every morning before breakfast – not merely the outside, but the inside as well – and after every meal. If this be done, the mouth will always be wholesome and clean. If toothpicks are necessary, let them be made of quill, and not of metal. Care of the teeth prevents them from decaying, and prevents the breath from being offensive. Use soft water instead of hard in brushing the teeth. If this be not readily procurable a little carbonate of soda should be added to the hard. Charcoal tooth powder is good, although not pretty; it is likewise safe, and that is more than ca be said of a good many of the tooth powders and pastes sold in the shops, which often contain substances that soon wear off the enamel or beautiful pearly covering of the teeth.  

A very good and efficient tooth powder may be made by mixing two teaspoonfuls each of powdered orris root and camphor with four of precipitated chalk.

Powders that contain acids are likewise unsafe, as they destroy the enamel. Pure bicarbonate of soda alone is often useful as a tooth powder.

A teaspoonful of tincture of myrrh and the same quantity of the tincture of bark in two ounces of rose water is useful as a wash when the gums are soft, spongy, and liable to bleed. The permanganate of potash mouth-wash is made of rose water, with a few grains of this salt in it, just enough to make it a pretty red colour. This is also a capital wash to sweeten the breath and prevent toothache. It stains the teeth a little, so the brush and a little charcoal should be used after it. If you should want a tooth powder to strengthen the gums, ask for one containing chalk, myrrh and borax.

Toothache can usually be prevented by the use of such powders and washes, as I have now given you, and by keeping the health well up to par. Most girls need a tonic now and then, and there is nothing better than tincture of iron, generally called steel drops – done, ten drops three times a day in a little cold water for a fortnight or three weeks. A saline aperients of sufficient strength, say, a good dose of Epsom salts, has often a wonderful effect in stopping inflammatory toothache. When this troublesome complaint comes on periodically, quinine should be taken in full doses in the intervals. Do not have the teeth pulled out unless they be very far decayed. If you do you will miss them sadly when you get older.

It is preferable to have them stopped. If you conclude to do this be sure to go to the very best dentist you know of. It will be the cheapest in the long run, for is it an operation which should be most carefully performed.

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