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Soapy Blanket The
Source: Papers On Health
It seems necessary, in getting people to use the
best means for the recovery of health, carefully to consider, not the
diseases to which they are subject only, but especially the processes
of cure. We require to go into the very nature of things, so to speak,
and to make it all palpable to the inquirer. For example, you prescribe
a little olive oil on the skin, and the nurse is horrified at its being
suggested that she should "block up the pores." Her idea is that these
pores are only little holes in the skin, so that, if you fill them up
with oil, the insensible perspiration will not get through. Now let us
observe that a pore is a complete organ in itself, and has at least
three things that characterise it. (See page 285). First of all, it
is a living thing. It is so as really as a finger is a living organ, or
an eye, or an ear. When it dies, it is as much an opening as ever, but
it ceases to secrete the perspiration which is constantly separated
from the current of the blood when it was healthily alive. When it is
sickly, though still living in a weak degree, it secretes, but so
sluggishly that the substance which it separates from the blood does
not pass off easily--it gets, so to speak, thick and sticky, and
remains in the pores.
In the second place, the substance which a pore secretes will not
combine with certain things, and it will chemically combine readily
with other things. When the pore is sickly, it may be aided, first, by
the introduction of heat, which becomes vital action, and secondly, by
the use of such substances as will readily combine with its secretion.
The heat makes it secrete more perfectly, and the chemical combination
makes the removal of the secretion easy. It is possible to block the
pores up, but it is not very easy to do so. A healthy pore will send
its secretions out through very close stuff. It is only by something
like very strong varnish that it can be prevented.
There is wonderfully little danger in ordinary life of any such "block"
as this. But there is very great danger of the pore being deprived of
its secretive power, and of its power to open its mouth when that is so
much wanted. Warm olive oil sets millions of pores to full work
sometimes in a few seconds.
Now let us look at the application of the soapy blanket in the light of
these remarks. Here is a poor patient, sitting in an armchair by the
fireside, labouring to get breath. It makes one feel burdened to see
him. What is wrong? Are the pores blocked up? No; but they are more
than half dead, and what they do secrete is not such an ethereal thing
as it should be. Nearly all the work of getting rid of the waste of the
body has been thrown for months upon the poor lungs. The kidneys, too,
have got far more than their share, just because the pores are sickly.
The remedy is the soapy blanket. This most valuable means of
stimulating the healthy action of the skin (as prescribed in many
articles in this volume) is prepared and applied as follows:--Have a
good blanket, and plenty of M'Clinton's soap (see Lather and Soap).
Shear down a tablet or two into boiling water--as much water as the
blanket will absorb. The blanket may be prepared as directed in article
Fomentation, using these boiling suds instead of water. Have the
patient's bed ready, and spread on it a double dry sheet. Soak in the
suds a piece of thick flannel large enough to go round the body under
the armpits. Wring this out and put it on the patient. Wrap the blanket
tightly round the patient from the neck downwards. Tie something round
the waist to confine it close to the body. Put the patient into bed,
and wrap the feet well up in the blanket. If it is not sufficient to
cover them, an extra piece of soapy flannel must be used. Then wrap the
sheets over the patient above the moist blanket, and cover all nicely
up. In removing the blanket, which may remain on half-an-hour, it is
well to proceed gradually, uncovering the body bit by bit, sponging
each part with hot water and vinegar or weak acetic acid (see Acetic
Acid), and rubbing hot oil on after drying. Dry this oil off, and cover
each dried part of the body either with clothing or blankets before
uncovering a fresh part.
There is a modification of this treatment which suits more weakly
persons, and suits also those who must do all, or almost all, for
themselves. A long flannel or flannelette nightdress is used in this,
instead of the blanket. This is covered on the whole of the inner side
with well-made soap lather. When so covered it is put on at bedtime,
and a dry nightdress put on over it. Both are then fastened as closely
as possible to the skin, and the patient goes to sleep thus clothed. If
the night is cold, the greatest care must be taken to be well covered,
and brought to as good a heat as possible. In the morning a very great
change will have come from this treatment. When the whole body is
washed down with warm water, dried, and nicely rubbed with fresh oil,
the skin is found very considerably changed, and in case of asthma the
If cold is taken when this process is fairly gone through, it would be
very astonishing indeed; but if it is badly done, a person might get
chilled instead of comforted. Therefore every care must be taken to
keep the patient thoroughly warm. The result of one effectual pack is
usually sufficient to convince the poor sufferer that he is being
treated in the right way. The effect of the second is greater, and so
on to the fourth or fifth, beyond which he need not go as a rule. He
will do well once a day to wash with hot vinegar and rub after with the
oil. These should not be required more than a fortnight at most. If
chilliness continues, it is well to put on cotton stockings on going to
bed, and even to bathe the feet and oil them before doing so. This
bathing may be continued every night for a fortnight.
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