What Effect Could Be Expected From A Warm Wet-sheet?

Sources: Hydriatic Treatment Of Scarlet Fever In Its Different Forms

The first impression of the wet-sheet is, as I stated before, a

_disagreeable_ one. If it were _agreeable_--as a warm sheet, for

instance, would be, which has been occasionally tried, of course without

doing any good--_it would not produce a reaction at all, and

consequently there would be no relief for, and finally no cure of the

patient effected by it_. But the impression of the cold sheet, being

powerful, is transferred at once from the peripherical nerves, which

receive the shock, to the nervous centres (the spine, the cerebellum and

the brain), and, in fact, to the whole nervous system, and the reaction

is almost immediate; the vascular system, participating in it, sends the

blood from the larger vessels and the vital parts, to the capillaries of

the skin; and when, through repeated applications of the sheet, the

system is relieved and harmony restored, in a sufficient degree, in and

among the different parts of the organism, to enable them to resume

their partly impeded functions, a profuse perspiration brings the

struggle to a close, by removing the morbid matter which caused the

fever, whereupon the skin is refreshed and strengthened, and the whole

body cooled and protected by a cool bath from obnoxious atmospheric


I am not aware that a better rationale can be given of the action of

other remedies. Any physician can understand that its effect must be at

once powerful and safe, and that there is no risk in the wet-sheet pack

of the reaction not taking place, as it may be the case in severer

applications of cold water, without the pack. One objection I have often

heard, viz.: that the process is very troublesome. But what does trouble

signify, when the life and health of a fellow-being is at stake?--It is

true, the physician is frequently compelled to render the services of a

bath-attendant, and stay with the patient much longer than in the usual

practice; but he gets through sooner, and, if not the patient and his

friends, his own conscience will pay him for his exertions and sacrifice

of time.

There is little trouble with small children, who make a fuss only, and

become refractory, when the parents, grandmammas and aunts set the

example. When all remain quiet, and treat the whole proceeding as a

matter of necessity, children usually submit to it very patiently, and

soon become quiet, should they be excited at the beginning. The fewer

words are said, and the quicker and firmer the physician performs the

whole process, the less there is trouble. After having been taught how

to do it, the parents or friends of the patient will be able to take the

most troublesome part of the business off the physician's hands, who, of

course, has more necessary things to do, during an epidemic, than to

pack his patients and attend to them in all their baths himself.

Only with spoiled children I have had trouble, and more with them that

spoiled them. The best course, then, is to retain only one person for

assistance, and to send the rest away till all is over. There are

people, who _will_ be unreasonable; of course, it is no use to attempt

reasoning with them. I remember the grandmother of a little patient,

with whom the pack acted like a miracle, removing a severe inflammatory

fever in two hours and a half, telling me "she would rather see the

child die, than have her packed again," although she acknowledged the

pack to have been the means of her speedy recovery. It is true there was

some trouble with the child, but only because the whole family were

assembled in the sick-room to excite the child through their

unseasonable lamentations and expressions of sympathy about the

"dreadful" treatment to which she was going to be submitted. Grandmother

would not have objected to a pound of calomel!--But we shall speak

about objections and difficulties in a more proper place.