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Source: Papers On Health
This trouble is rather a symptom than a disease. It rises from
accumulation of watery waste in the body, owing to improper action of
the skin, lungs, or kidneys, and sometimes follows scarlet or other
fevers and lung affections. By far the greatest danger in such cases
arises from fashionable medicines. It is of the last importance that
nothing should be given to lessen life by injuring already weakened
vital action. It is when this is done by metallic preparations that
such cases become very grave and even hopeless. There is a prominent
error in connection with all dropsical tendencies, which should be
removed. That is the idea that the "water" which collects in such
swellings is similar to good drinking water, and that giving the
thirsty patient water to drink is increasing his illness. The so-called
"water" which swells the face, or the feet, or any other part of the
body, in dropsy, is used-up matter such as is, in good health, removed
(imperceptibly, in greatest measure) by the organs fitted for that
Water, especially if given about blood heat, is at once used for most
important vital purposes. This hot fresh water mingling with the
poisonous "water" of dropsy dilutes it--renders it not only so much
less injurious, but tends powerfully to its removal. The thirst of the
patient is in perfect harmony with this truth, as all natural symptoms
are ever in harmony with nature. If there are convulsive attacks, they
are the result of used-up matter returning into the circulation, and
reaching even the brain and central parts of the nervous system. The
cure is gained when the defective organs are brought to act well. It is
shortsighted action to deal with the kidneys alone in this trouble.
They often fail because they are overloaded through the failure of
lungs and skin to do their part. First, it is well to act on the lungs
by gentle rubbing with hot olive oil between the shoulders and over all
the back--done best in a warm room by the fire, or in bed. This may be
continued for half-an-hour or more twice daily. The skin may be
stimulated by a smart sponging with vinegar or weak acetic acid, and a
rubbing all over with soap lather, and afterwards with hot olive oil.
This lathering and rubbing to be done at another time from the first
rubbing for the lungs. Then apply a large warm bran poultice to the
lower part of the back behind the kidneys.
We have often found the following simple treatment effectual, where the
patient is not very weak. If there are any signs of heart failure, do
not use it. But if the patient is fairly strong, it is most beneficial.
You have a case, say, of dropsy in the abdomen: put on two folds of
soft flannel, wrung out of cold water; put two folds dry over the moist
ones. Keep away all oiled silk and everything of the kind. You will
very soon have an astonishing outflow of insensible perspiration, but
it passes off through the soft porous flannel without any obstruction
whatever. You will find that under this the swelling soon comes down,
and even disappears entirely. It is necessary, in such treatment, to
renew the bandage so as to keep all fresh and healthful, but your work
is abundantly rewarded. In such a case as this the matter to be passed
off is so great that a cotton or ordinary linen bandage may fail, as
being too impervious, when a flannel bandage will succeed. A Kneipp
linen bandage is perfectly porous, and will not irritate the skin as
flannel often does. Worn-out underwear can be kept for this purpose.
If stronger heat seems to be needed, a soft cloth four-ply thick, large
enough to cover the whole lower back, should be dipped in CAYENNE
LOTION (see), slightly squeezed, and placed on the back. Over this a
dry cloth should be placed, and the patient should lie down on a bran
poultice or hot-water bag for an hour or two. Afterwards the back
should be rubbed with olive oil, and a band of soft new flannel worn
round the body.
Even if the swelling is caused by rupture this treatment is the best.
The rupture must be reduced (see Rupture) and sustained by a proper
truss, for which the patient should apply to a responsible surgical
instrument maker. This treatment alone has cured many dropsical
patients. Where failure of the heart's action complicates the trouble,
this treatment will usually relieve the heart as well as kidneys. For
drink in such cases see article Drinks. For food give whatever is most
easily digested and passed into good blood. Wheaten-meal food, oatmeal
jelly, etc., are good. See also Biscuits and Water.
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