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Source: Hydriatic Treatment Of Scarlet Fever In Its Different Forms

During an epidemic of scarlatina in 1836 two of my children were
attacked by the disease, a boy of about eight, and another of five
years, the younger one two days after the older one. I ordered them to
be packed, and all seemed to go well, when, during my absence from the
city (of Freiberg) a medical friend, who called, persuaded my wife to
desist from continuing the hydriatic treatment, and use some remedies of
his instead. On my return, I found the elder boy (the other began only
to show some slight symptoms) in a very bad state: the cerebellum and
spine were distinctly affected by the contagious poison; the patient
complained of insupportable pain in the back of his head, the spine and
all over his body, so that no one dared to touch him. The fact of the
packs having been discontinued during twenty-four hours being concealed
from me, and the boy being subject to herpes and inclined to scrofula, I
began to fear that the treatment would not be applicable in such cases,
and became really alarmed about my child. I was then almost a novice in
Priessnitz's practice, at least in the treatment of acute diseases,
which seldom occurred at Graefenberg, and, had I had more confidence in
blood-letting and drugs, I would probably have resorted to them. For a
while I was doubtful about the course I should pursue, when Dr. B., my
medical friend, made his appearance and I learned what had happened
during my absence. Instead, however, of giving way to his earnest
solicitations to rely on the old practice, I at once became encouraged
by his confession, and declared I would persevere in my own practice,
which was quite new to him, and in which no physician of the place as
yet believed. He assured me, from the symptoms, that the boy could not
live twenty-four hours, unless he be bled, and that even then he would
not answer for his life. Having lost six children before under
allopathic treatment, and having never had much confidence in drugs
during the time I had been connected myself with the practice, I firmly
refused to allow either bleeding or drugging, and expressed my
resolution to see what water could do, resigning myself to the
possibility of a bad issue of the case. I need scarcely assure my
readers, that my feelings were far from agreeable, and that my
resolution required all the reminiscence of the bad success of
allopathic treatment of former cases in my family, and the confidence I
had in Priessnitz and his system, to support it. I tried the pack again,
which did little or no good. Judging from the effects of the sitz-bath
in cases of affection of the brain during continued fevers, that it
might be of service also in the present case (Priessnitz's directions
did not go so far, nor had I treated a similar case since my return from
Graefenberg), I put my boy with great care into a sitz-bath of 70 deg. F. and
left him there for a little over half an hour, when he felt greatly
relieved. He was taken to his bed and allowed to become warm, when he
began to complain again. I then packed him, seemingly without much
effect; therefore the sitz-bath was repeated and proved quite
successful. I then packed the patient immediately after the sitz-bath
and left him two hours in the pack, where he slept almost all the time.
When he awoke, he complained again of pain in his head, which partly
yielded to the half-bath. About three hours after the bath, he
complained more of the pain in his head and spine, and I repeated the
sitz-bath and the pack. He slept in the pack for about three hours, and
when I took him out, he was covered with red spots. Feeling pretty well,
he was dressed and permitted to stay up. In the forenoon, my friend
called to see whether our patient were still living, and could hardly
believe his own eyes when, on cautiously putting his head in at the
door, he saw the boy walking up and down the room to warm his feet. In
the afternoon, the pain returned and the rash faded. I repeated the
pack, and the pain not yielding entirely, I gave him one more sitz-bath
in the evening and a pack after it, in which he stayed asleep almost all
the time, nearly four hours, upon which the rash stood out finely and
never disappeared until desquamation set in. I managed to keep him in
bed after the relapse mentioned, till desquamation was over. I need
scarcely say that I continued to pack him (twice a day) till after
desquamation, when the packs were given once a day for about a week
longer. On the seventeenth day (which was the fifteenth with the younger
boy, who had the fever in a very mild form, and was treated accordingly)
the two scarlet-convalescents were seen playing in the street, throwing
snowballs at each other; a fact, which increased not a little the
sensation caused by this miraculous cure. Although my friend was not
converted to the new method, this case had a very decided encouraging
influence upon myself, and, I am convinced, became the means of
salvation for many hundred lives afterwards, treated partly by myself
directly, partly by other physicians, or the parents of the patients,
after my prescriptions. I felt the importance of my success in this
difficult case of scarlatina, and warmly thanked Providence for having
assisted me in saving my child for the benefit of many others.

The circumstance that, at the same time my two boys were taken sick
with scarlatina, a servant of mine became afflicted with _small-pox_, my
daughter with _varioloids_, and my mother and wife with _influenza_,
afforded me an ample opportunity of trying the effects of the
water-cure and my own courage and skill in the new method. The servant
was cured, chiefly by long packs, in twelve days, so that she was able
to resume her household duties, and though she had been covered with
pocks all over, not the slightest mark remained on her body; my little
girl was out of doors in a fortnight, and a few days were sufficient to
rid the ladies of influenza. The complete success I had in the treatment
of all these cases, contributed not a little to encourage me to employ
the method upon others, with whom I have ever since been equally
successful, with one single exception, which I shall mention hereafter.

One of the last cases of affection of the brain in torpid scarlatina
I treated, was that of a scrofulous little boy of six years, from
Williamsburgh, N. Y., who was at my establishment, with his mother and
sisters, taking treatment for scrofulous ulceration of the parotid
glands, and other symptoms of that dangerous disease. The reaction was
torpid, and the brain became affected almost from the commencement.
There was a little rash coming out, but in small dark purple spots,
looking much more like measles than scarlet-fever. The delirium
increased during the period of efflorescence, instead of giving way. The
spine evidently sympathized in the suffering of the brain and
cerebellum. Homoeopathic remedies, which were earnestly asked for by
the mother, had no effect whatever; acids only produced a slight relief
of the inflammation of the throat; the packs increased the symptoms in
the head and spine. The appearance of the tongue, the peculiar kind of
delirium, the small quick pulse, &c. showed, that the case was going to
take a typhoid turn; when I ordered a sitz-bath, which almost
immediately relieved the head and improved the pulse, I then, proceeded
in about the same manner as described above in my son's case, with the
difference, that I allowed longer intervals. The patient, according to
the severity of the symptoms, took one or two packs a day, and the same
number of sitz-baths, had wet compresses on his ears and throat, and was
kept in bed with very few exceptions, when the nurse would take him on
her knees, wrapt in a blanket. The good effect of the sitz-bath was so
obvious, that the child's father, who had been informed by telegraph of
the critical condition of his son, asked himself for a repetition of it,
when he found that neither medicines nor packs produced the slightest
change. The child always became quiet and slept after the bath. Not only
was his life saved, but he also escaped all the dreaded consequences of
the disease. I am confident, that under any other kind of treatment, he
would have lost his life, or at least he would have lost his hearing.
But, far from increasing, the affection of his ears was rather improved
when he left, and his general health a great deal better than when he
was first placed under my care. I had a great deal of trouble with that
little patient, not only because he did not allow me a night's rest for
a week, and the case produced quite an estampeda in the
establishment, but also, and chiefly, because of the interference
of a half-bred Irish woman, who had brought him up, and who, on account
of the mother's bad health, acted in the double quality of a nurse and a
governess towards the children. This woman, being averse to the
treatment and the place, which gave her little pleasure, and to the
rules of which she would not submit, procured all sort of dainties and
excited the child by her foolish remonstrances against any application I
found necessary, making at the same time an unfavorable impression on
the simple minds of the family, by telling lies and tales, thereby not
only placing difficulties in my way, in a case which was difficult in
itself, but even preventing the parents from acknowledging by one word
of thanks the sacrifices of time and health I had cheerfully made. What
a blessing it would be for physicians and patients, could unnecessary
and unreasonable people be kept away from persons afflicted with painful
and dangerous diseases!--

Next: Impossibility Of Answering For The Issue Of Every Typhoid Case

Previous: Sitz-bath Anchor Of Safety

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