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Medical ArticlesPathologic Physiology
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What Effect Could Be Expected From A Warm Wet-sheet?
Category: TREATMENT OF SCARLET-FEVER.
Source: 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
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.
Next: No Cutting Short Of The Process Of Scarlatina The Morbid Poison Must Be Drawn To The Skin As Soon As Possible
Previous: Action Of The Pack And Bath Rationale