Friday, 12 August 2016

27 November 1880 - 'How to be Healthy' by Medicus

I know for a fact this blog gets a fair bit of traffic from people Googling things that have absolutely nothing to do with the Girl's Own Paper, who might consequently click the link without immediately noticing that this is emphatically NOT a 21st-century lifestyle website. 

So although I know you are all very smart and intelligent people, who immediately realise what's going on and click the Back button on your browser, I must heed my conscience and make the following disclaimer: Everything on this website is at least a hundred years old. Especially the stuff to do with health, medicine and science. 'Highlights From the Girl's Own Paper' is an archival blog, intended for entertainment and interest only. Do not follow any of the directions for the preparation and taking of medicines contained herein. Please. 

The permanganate of potash, which forms the basis of Condy's disinfecting fluid as well as Condy's ozonised water, possesses remarkable powers of purification. It is a reddish brown salt, and can be bought for a reasonable price from any respectable chemist. In cases of sickness it is invaluable as a disinfectant. Redden a quart of water by mixing a teaspoonful of the salt in it and shaking the bottle, and pour a little of this into a saucer, standing it in a room wherever the air is likely to be tainted. A little of this water may be used to slightly tinge the bath, or the water with which you wash the hands, or rinse the mouth. When the breath is offensive, either the stomach, lungs, or teeth are in fault. If the former, a little Gregory's powder is a good thing to take every morning. And three times a day, ten drops of the following mixture should be taken in a little water; twenty grains of permanganate of potash, dissolved in five ounces of pure water. If there is reason to believe that the lungs are weakly, there is nothing in the world better than moderate exercise in the open air, especially on sunny days, and the light brown cod liver oil. Begin with a teaspoonful three times a day after meals, and gradually increase till a tablespoonful can be taken. It may not seem to agree at first, but persist in it, nevertheless. It is a grand remedy for all kinds of constitutional weaknesses.

Many girls between the ages of ten and fifteen suffer from what we medical men call anaemia, or in plain English, poverty of blood. Such girls are often looked upon as merely delicate, and little that can be of any avail is attempted to be done for them. Here is a case in point, and it teaches a lesson that you will do well to lay to heart. Miss Julian A is fourteen years of age; she is an only daughter and adored by her parents. But her mother says, expressively, "Julian won't make old bones." Her mother's words may come true, because this is the way in which she is treated. She is kept and coddled almost constantly within doors, she has always a little fire in her bedroom, and the window is seldom opened. If she goes out she is positively burdened with clothes, and, in addition to all kinds of good living, she is made to drink wine "to keep her up." She is pale and blanched in appearance, too weakly to work, and suffers from back ache. This case, and all others of the same kind, requires plenty of exercise in the open air, the companionship of other girls of the same age, good food, cod liver oil, and tonics of iron, of which the following is an excellent sample; twenty grains each of sulphate of quinine, dried sulphate of iron, and the extract of henbane made into fifteen pills, and one taken twice a day. With this treatment an aloes pill should be taken at night about once a week. I ought to tell you that ten drops three times a day in a little water of the tincture of iron, or "steel drops," is an excellent tonic for pale weakly girls. But they ought by all means to take plenty of open air exercise. They should not make hot-house plants of themselves. Hot-house plants are good enough to look at, but they are of no other use that I know of.

Girls of weakly habit and constitution often suffer from fainting fits. So, too, do older people, and everyone ought to know what to do in a case of this kind. When a person faints, then, or swoons and falls to the ground, place her prone on the floor or sofa, the head being level with the body or not raised above an inch, loosen the clothes, let her have fresh air by opening doors and windows, rub the breast with brandy or spirits, dash cold water in the face, and apply smelling salts to the nostrils. The mistake people generally made in fainting fits are: first, crowding too much around the patient, then excluding the fresh air; and secondly, raising the head above the level of the body. Epilepsy or falling sickness is distinguished from fainting by the convulsions, grinding of the teeth, and foaming at the mouth. Little can be done during the fit further than preventing the patient from hurting herself or biting the tongue; the clothes should be loosened, however, and fresh air admitted.

A fit of hysterics is usually brought on through fatigue, or by mental emotion of some kind. It is too well known to need description. I cannot lay down any general plan of treatment. During the fit, some may be relieved by being gently soothed, others may need a soothing drink, followed by rest; but at all events, as it is only a weakly person who can be subject to hysterics, tonics should be taken in the intervals, quinine and iron &c., with good diet and moderate exercise, and the bath.

Have my readers ever heard of a disease called St Vitus' Dance? It is characterised by uncontrollable movements of the hands, or feet, or face, or even of the whole body, which greatly interfere with walking, or working, or even talking. It is far more common among young girls than among boys. Very distressing though this complaint be, both to the patient herself and to her friends, most cases can be cured by care and kind treatment. Patients who suffer from St. Vitus' Dance are generally irritable in temper. They ought never, therefore, to be excited, far less mimicked. They should have no worry, not even the worry of lessons to learn. The diet should be nutritious, with plenty of milk. The cold shower bath may be tried, it does great good when the shock can be borne. Or the sea-salt bath may be taken every morning before breakfast, cold if possible, if not, tepid. Two large handfuls of sea-salt should be added to each bucketful of water used. Then, exercise out of doors will be found exceedingly beneficial, if taken with regularity and judgment. Meanwhile cod liver oil must not be forgotten, and a tonic; I have great faith in a combination of zinc and steel, with an occasional aloetic pill. Take twenty grains of phosphate of zinc, one drachm of tincture of iron, one drachm of dilute phosphoric acid, and mix in eight ounces of peppermint water. Of course a chemist or druggist must compound this; the dose will be two tablespoonfuls twice a day, for a girl about fifteen; if only about ten years of age, one tablespoonful will be enough.

The old-fashioned plan of treating a common cold is by no means to be despised, and if taken in time is generally effectual. Warm drinks should be taken, according to this method, before going to bed, and about eight grains of Dover's powder for a girl of fourteen or fifteen. A handful of mustard should be thrown into a pailful of hot water, and used as a foot-bath, and an extra blanket should be put upon the bed to induce perspiration. Care should be taken to wrap up well next day, and to live as well as possible.

A teaspoonful of the solution of the acetate of ammonia, with fifteen to thirty drops of the spirits of sweet nitre, taken in cold water, three or four times a day, is a nice mixture to reduce the heat of the body, and the feverishness caused by a cold. So simple a remedy should find a place in every family medicine chest. When the cold attacks the chest, there will be at first a harsh, dry and painful cough; the pain gets less or goes away entirely when the cough is accompanied by expectoration, which it is in the second and last stage. A mustard poultice may be applied to the front of the chest, or friction, till the lower part of the throat and upper part of the chest are well reddened with turpentine. You apply the turpentine by pouring about a tablespoonful of it over a piece of flannel, wrung from water as hot as you can hold it. This and the same treatment as that recommended for a common cold will usually give relief.

Many young girls are greatly troubled with indigestion. This tiresome complaint, trifling though it may seem to some, should never on any account be neglected, because it is the forerunner, and even the cause, of many dangerous and fatal illnesses. Independent of this, no one can look well who suffers from it; the complexion of a dyspeptic girl is never clear, nor is her eye bright and full. Anyone suffering from indigestion should first and foremost find out the cause. Let her ask herself these questions: Do I take sufficient outdoor exercise? Do I practise early rising and always take my matutinal bath? Do I eat intemperately or eat in haste? Are my studies too long and tedious? The lighter and the more easily digested the food which a dyspeptic person takes the better, too long intervals between meals are injurious, and so, of course, is overloading the stomach. Milk is the best beverage, and tea should be avoided. Ginger ale may be taken with dinner; of medicines the fewer the better, but gentian bitters will do good if taken about half-an-hour before meals, and if there be paleness of the countenance, or inside of lips and gums, iron will do good (steel drops). If the tongue be yellow or white in the morning, the liver is probably somewhat in fault, in which case dandelion tea may be taken in doses of half a wineglassful three or four times a day. The proportion is,, of dandelion root sliced and bruised, one ounce boiled for a quarter of an hour in a pint of water. It is then simply strained, and enough water added to make it measure a pint. A teaspoonful or two of cream of tartar may be mixed in water, and half a teaspoonful of Howard's carbonate of soda added, and taken first thing in the morning; this medicine is very cooling and agreeable. A small teaspoonful of carbonate of soda in a wineglassful of water is an instantaneous cure for heartburn.

I know that many of my youthful readers suffer greatly from that most dreadful complaint called tic doloureux, or neuralgia of the face. The pain is usually confined to one half of the face and head, and comes on in paroxysms of great severity; an attack may last for days or even for weeks. Then it may be absent for quite a long time, when some little irregularity in diet or accidental chill may bring it all back again. It is most common in weakly girls.

To get rid of tic, the first thing to do is to have the teeth examined by a proper dentist. The removal of a bad one will often in itself suffice to effect a cure; a mild pill of aloes and pepsine combined may be taken about once a week, but stronger medicine is objectionable. An ointment composed of one grain or a grain and a half of aconitine with sixty grains of lard may be carefully and cautiously rubbed into the painful part of the cheek in front of the ear. A skilled chemist would tell you exactly how to use this. Liniments of chloroform, belladonna, and aconite are also worthy of a trial. But there is one medicine  for the relief of neuralgic pains that I must not omit mentioning, because it often - mind I do not say, always - acts like a charm; I refer to sal ammoniac. The dose for a grown-up person would be twenty grains in about half a cupful of water, repeated every hour till four doses were taken. If relief is obtained, the medicine should be taken three or four times a day for a week. About half the dose would do for a girl of about twelve.

Having got rid of the torture, a great effort ought to be made to improve the general health, and so prevent its return. Quinine wine should be used three times a day, with steel drops if the patient be pale and bloodless looking. The diet should be nourishing. Milk should be substituted for coffee or tea. The clothing ought to be warm, and the feet especially kept comfortable, white flannel must be worn next the skin. The Turkish bath twice a week is worthy of a trial.

I hope my readers will get any prescriptions I may give from time to time, either in my papers or in my Answers to Correspondents, made up by a regular chemist, except indeed, the more simple of them, such as dandelion or chamomile tea, &c. I would also remind them that unless attention to the ordinary rules of health is paid, such as regulation of diet, exercise, fresh air, early hours, and the bath, medicines will not work the wonders which they ought.

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