site logo


Sources: Hydriatic Treatment Of Scarlet Fever In Its Different Forms

I shall give a couple of illustrations:

In the winter of 1845-46, during an epidemic, which ravaged the city of

Dresden and the neighboring villages, I was called to see a child,

belonging to a tradesman, blessed with a large family, but without

sufficient means to support them. I found the whole family crammed

together in a room of moderate size, the patient lying in a bed near the

window. There was a la
ge fire in a sheet-iron stove, upon which the

mother was preparing the scanty dinner of the family. The air was filled

with the exhalations of the living, beside the smell from the potatoes

and sourkrout, which was undergoing the cooking process, the sundry

boots and shoes lying around or being under repair in the hands of the

father, and a few pieces of linen hanging behind the stove for the

purpose of drying. In an adjoining alcove lay the body of a little boy,

who had expired the day before, a victim of scarlet-fever.

I found the patient, a fair-haired little girl of about eight years, in

a state of sopor, which had lasted a day and a half; there had been

delirium for two or three days, during which time the child had never

had a clear moment. There was a purple rash all over the body. The

temperature of the body I found 112 F., on placing my pocket-thermometer

under the pit of the arm; the pulse was small, but exceedingly quick.

There was considerable inflammation of the throat and swelling of the

face; the breath was very bad. There was a blister on the throat and a

mustard plaster on each of the soles of the feet.

I sent for a large wash-tub and water, which I mixed with some warm

water, so as to make it about 65 deg.. I had the child undressed, and placed

in the empty tub, after removing the blister and mustard; then I poured

the water slowly over her head, shoulders and the rest of the body. The

second pail brought her to consciousness, but only for a moment. As the

delirium returned, I continued to pour water over her; till the tub was

filled about nine inches, when I used the water from the bath. In

fifteen minutes, I found the heat of the body diminished about five

degrees. Soon after, the child became conscious, and its mind cleared

off more and more, as she continued in the bath. In thirty minutes, the

heat was 103, and the pulse, which first could not be counted, 135, when

I removed her from the bath and put her in a wet-sheet pack, where she

fell asleep. The pulse continuing slower, coming down to 126, and the

heat not increasing, I left her in the pack for an hour and three

quarters, when I observed an increase of heat, a quickening of the pulse

and a return of delirium.

The water of the first bath still standing in the room, but having

become warmer, and it being found troublesome to carry much water

up-stairs to a fifth story; I sent for a pail more of fresh water,

lowering the temperature of the bath to 71 deg., and, placing the child in

the bath, threw water over it, as I had done before. This time the bath

produced a beneficial effect much sooner, and I removed the patient from

it in about twelve minutes. The heat of the body had gone down to 101,

the pulse was 118, and the patient was perfectly conscious, complaining

a good deal of her throat. I placed a wet compress on the throat and

chest and had her put to bed, but ordered the bed to be removed further

from the window, and the latter partly to be kept open. I need scarcely

say, that I had opened it soon after entering the room.

When I returned in about five hours, I found the patient covered with a

thick feather-bed, the window closed, the air of the room as bad as

before; the patient was delirious, the heat 110, the pulse upwards of


I repeated the bath as before, but continued only twenty minutes; then I

packed her again, placed a wet compress on her head, opened the window

entirely, and left, promising to be back in an hour.

This time, on my return, I found the window open, the air better, the

child conscious in her pack. I left her a quarter of an hour longer;

then placed her in a bath of fresh water, of 70 deg., kept her there five

minutes, and put her back to bed. It being late in the evening, I

recommended changing the compress on the throat and placing another on

the stomach, and in case of renewed delirium, a cold compress on the

head, to be changed frequently.

When I called in the morning, I found the patient again in delirium, the

heat 110 deg., the pulse 140.

The bath was repeated for twenty-five minutes, when the heat went down

to 100 deg., and the pulse to 120. The patient being conscious, I had her

packed again and left her about two hours in the pack. When I returned,

I found her head almost clear; the bath of 70 deg. for ten minutes

brightened her very much. Her throat continued very troublesome, one of

the submaxillary glands was very much swollen, and broke afterwards, on

the fifth day of my treatment, discharging fetid matter. Also the

parotid gland on the same side became seriously affected, swoll

considerably and looked as if the ear might be endangered. The patient

developing heat enough, I used nothing but wet compresses, and water and

vinegar for a gargle.

The heat and delirium returning, the patient was bathed and packed twice

more the same day; the pack lasting only an hour to an hour and a

quarter. The night was pretty good; there was little delirium.

The third day, the patient was packed twice, and had four baths, and the

bowels being costive, an injection of tepid water in the evening.

The fourth day, the rash having disappeared, and the heat being down to

98, whilst the pulse continued weak and quick, and the patient still had

some delirium, I gave her a pack in the forenoon, without a bath

previous, of an hour and a half, and a short bath after it; and in the

afternoon, the patient having more delirium, the half-bath of 70 deg. was

repeated, and the patient kept in it for twenty minutes.

On the fifth day the ulcerating gland burst outside and the parotid

gland became relieved. Pack and baths as the day before. In the evening

the patient complaining of pain in the bowels, a sitz-bath of 70 deg. for

twenty minutes was administered, and an injection after it, which

relieved her.

The rest of the time, one pack and bath in the morning, and a bath in

the afternoon were deemed sufficient. On the eighteenth day of my

treatment the patient left the house for the first time, and continued

improving from day to day, the packs being continued for about two weeks

longer on account of the broken gland, which continued to discharge. I

tried to persuade the parents to continue the packs till the gland was

healed, but they found it too much trouble.

The patient drank a good deal of water during the whole of the

treatment, ate very little and only light food, principally water-soup

or panada, and gruel, and kept in bed almost entirely the first ten or

twelve days. Her deceased little brother had the same symptoms, and I am

confident, she would have followed him, had she not come under hydriatic


111. A later case, to which I have alluded before, was the following:

The driver of a lady, who was under my care in Florence, attending to

one of the lady's maids, who was sick with typhoid scarlatina, was taken

ill. Like most uneducated people, he could not understand how water

could do any good for diseases, and went to the village-store to buy

some patent medicine, which he took. The remedy producing no good

effect, he bought some other medicine--purgative pills, as I

understood--and took it. Some friends of the village, which, like other

villages, especially in America, was full of doctors--brought him

nostrums and popular remedies, which he took for some days, till he

could not leave the bed any more, delirium set in, and I was at last

applied for. I found him with all the symptoms of typhus, and scarcely

any of scarlatina, except the tongue, which seemed to struggle between a

typhoid and scarlatinous appearance, but soon took all the form and

color of the former. There was no rash, not much of a sore-throat, but

constant delirium and rapid sinking of the strength of the patient.

Under these circumstances, I believed I must treat him more for typhus

than for scarlatina, and used cold baths; in which course I was

encouraged by the fine reaction ensuing after every bath, and the slight

clearing off of his mind for a few minutes. Internally, I used the

muriatic-acid in the forms mentioned above (39), and the solution of

chloride of lime, which was also used for a wash and sprinkled about the

room. In order to draw the eruption towards the skin--provided there be

any of the scarlatinous poison in his system,--I tried a few packs, but

without avail. He grew weaker and weaker, though his skin continued to

become red after every bath, and on the sixth day early in the morning,

when we were about changing his linen, and I was holding him sitting up

in bed, he expired in my arms. This is the only case of scarlet-fever, I

lost under hydriatic treatment; and it is yet doubtful whether it can be

considered as belonging to that disease. I have always considered it,

and continue to do so now, a case of typhus, partly communicated by the

typhoid exhalations of the other servant, and partly created in his own

body, as he complained for more than a fortnight before, of nervous and

feverish symptoms, which indicated a serious disease threatening him.

The contagion of scarlatina may have made the case more dangerous by

complicating it; but, be this as it may, it is certain that the symptoms

were such from the beginning that a cure must have appeared most

improbable at first sight to any physician of any school; and if there

was a possibility of saving his life, it could only be done by the

course I took; a course which had proved successful in several cases of

typhus I had treated before, and which looked about as bad, and even

worse than that of poor William McNought.

112. The young woman, who apparently communicated the typhoid contagion

to William, was in quite as critical a condition as her fellow-servant;

and for a while I doubted of her recovery. She continued delirious for

more than a fortnight, and there were distinct putrid symptoms, her

throat and glands ulcerating, and breaking in two places outside. For

longer than a week she had not a lucid moment, became extenuated and

powerless. We had to lift her into the baths and out; involuntary

discharges from the bowels and the bladder took place; petechiae

appeared, and every thing indicated a steady decay. Neither acids nor

chloride of lime seemed to have any effect; the only thing, which

revived her, was the tepid half-bath, of 70 deg., which she took twice a day

for about twenty minutes. She was usually carried into the bath-room

near by, and was commonly able to walk back assisted by the nurses. She

took a pack occasionally for an hour or an hour and a half, as long as a

few spots of the rash made their appearance. Her skin peeled off but

imperfectly (there was not an appearance of desquamation on the driver's

person, although he died about the tenth day after the disease had

manifested itself). The patient not producing much heat, I used a

poultice of hemlock-leaves and bran on her glands, the gargle of

muriatic-acid, and ablutions of water and vinegar externally, when the

skin was not prepared for a bath. Although of a weak, scrofulous habit,

and having always been sickly, not only her life was saved, but her

health became afterwards stronger, and her looks much better than they

ever were before. The gland kept discharging for three or four months

longer, and I have no doubt, to her great benefit.

With this patient, I never found the heat to exceed 100 deg. Fahr. and the

delirium never had a very active character. For the greater part of the

time, her skin was more cool than warm, and sometimes even clammy.