Sources: 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!--