The Rubbing Wet Sheet. THE rubbing wet sheet, too little appreciated, and too seldom used, is one of the most valuable of all the hydropathic resources. There is probably no other single application of water, in all the multiform modes of hydropathic medication, that can be made, on the whole, as useful as this. It is a tonic, a stimulant, a sedative, an antispasmodic, a derivative, or a febrifuge, according to the circumstances under which it is applied. . We take a coarse linen sheet, although cotton answers a very good purpose, large enough to throw around the body like an Indian's blanket. It is wrung more or less, according to the demands of the case. Thereupon, it is thrown quickly around the patient's body, who, if strong enough, is in the standing posture ; and then both patient and assistant set vigorously to work, rubbing over the sheet, not with it, as some do, three, four, or more minutes, until the surface becomes thoroughly warm (Fig. 188).
If there is fever, less friction is required. After the wet sheet, comes a dry one, to be used in the same manner. Those who have sufficient reactive energy, and most have, may dry the body simply by fanning it with the dry sheet, the windows at the
same time being open. This sort of air bath exerts a highly pleasurable effect upon the skin. Instead of giving one a cold, it helps greatly to ward it off. This method of drying the body was one of Priessnitz's later improvements.
The rubbing wet sheet, it should be remembered, is not a single
application, capable of producing only one effect. It is used in three
different gradations, and to produce very different results. It is well wrung, or only moderately wrung, or left quite wet and dripping. If a person is fatigued, or has a low degree of reactive energy, the first form is the one to adopt; if there is not much fatigue, and good reactive energy, the second; and if the patient is feverish, and the object is to abstract heat simply, we use the sheet quite wet and drip.
ping; and we repeat it as many times in succession as the case may need. One great advantage is, that we give it before or after a wet pack, when no bath is at hand; we also give it in connection with any other bath we may choose.
See how admirable a remedy the rubbing wet sheet is, when properly understood! A patient, a child, perhaps, is so feeble in the reactive power, that almost any form of bath we can give it sends the blood from the surface, making the lips and nails pale or blue, and the extremities cold, showing congestion of the internal organs. When a bath produces such effects, it is very apt, to say the least, to do more harm than good. But we can apply the rubbing wet sheet in such a way as to cause none of these ill effects; besides, it maybe repeated many times in the day, so as to give the patient the advantage of a strong treatment; for a light treatment, which can be easily borne, is made a strong one by the frequency of its repetition.
A wet sheet, well wrung, holds perhaps a pint of water; or, at most, a quart. Now, it must appear plain, that a pint or quart of cold water, spread over so large a surface as the whole skin, must become very easily warmed by the body's heat. Besides, if there is great delicacy of constitution, we may wring the sheet out of water at seventy, eighty, or even ninety degrees, gradually lowering it as the patient can bear it.
The domestic availability of this application is also to be spoken of. In every dwelling, however humble, there is the coarse sheet, and the bucket of water. How useful, therefore, as a resort, in home practice!
The rubbing wet sheet appears a trifling application, one which is not capable of producing any great result. But when we remember the myriads of nerves of animal life, spread over the skin, and derived from the brain and spinal cord, it need not surprise us that its application should so invigorate the body, take off bodily and mental depression, remove languor and fatigue, expel flatus from the bowels, remove thirst, give appetite, and cause a feeling of calmness and relief which can be appreciated only by those who experience it. A minister, for example, preaches three times on a Sunday, and gets his brain so excited that he cannot sleep. A cold bath would be too powerful, and opiates would only act as stimulants, making the matter worse. Two or three successful applications of the rubbing wet sheet, with powerful friction, bring the blood so much to the surface, that his brain becomes relieved, and be very soon falls into a sound and refreshing sleep. So, too, when a man has been long wet and drenched on a rainy day, and comes home, with the surface and extremities cold, and the blood pressing hard upon the brain and other internal organs, the well wrung rubbing sheet is applied, with plentiful friction, and at once the oppressed organs are set free.
In using the rubbing wet sheet, as in all other forms of general bath, it is well to wash the hands and face in cold water, both before and after it. There is no need of, throwing it over the head, as some have thought it necessary to do. ;~ A patient needs to breathe freely when he takes a bath.
This application is not always the most pleasant one. It does, in fact, require a good degree of moral courage to enable one to endure the first shock. The sensations produced by it are worse, if possible, than those from a plunge into cold water; I mean the first touch of the sheet to the body. Nervous ladies sometimes tell us they cannot take the rubbing wet sheet, when, at the same time, they take the cold plunge, which is far more powerful, and perhaps too powerful for their case. This unpleasant feeling does no harm, for it vanishes in a moment or two after the sheet touches the body.
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