Chapter 20 - Hydropathic Treatment
Processes of Hydropathic Treatment
Different Baths
Sea Bathing
Rules for Using Water
Wet Bandages and Compresses
Wet Sheet Pack
Wet Dress
Half Pack
Folded Wet Sheet
Rubbing Wet Sheet
Pail Douche
Half Bath
Wash Tub
Wash Down
Eye and Ear and Mouth Baths
Oral Bath

20.2 Different Baths

Division of Baths. On no one subject connected with hydropathy has there been more "confusion of tongues," than concerning the temperature of baths. Both in books and in popular language, among physicians as well as laymen, have words been used, sometimes confusedly, and at other times without any meaning whatever. Orthodox medical works, as well as the unorthodox, come under the same category of error. A few simple explanations on this head, properly made, will be sufficient for all practical as well as scientific purposes. The simplest and most natural division of baths is into cold, tepid, warm, and hot. These are all terms of every day life, and are fully sufficient to guide us in the selection of any and all the multiform uses of water which hydropathy teaches. I admit, however, that when we wish to be especially explicit, the actual thermometrical temperature should be mentioned. Hot baths, I maintain, have no proper place in hydropathic practice. He who resorts to them either does not at all understand the true principles of the Water Cure, or is guided merely by the whims or caprices of those who employ him. But whatever words we use to designate the different baths, there is one objection, which is, that all such terms are necessarily arbitrary in a greater or less degree. What appears to one person cold, may to another appear tepid, or warm, or even hot. Thus it is said that on a road over the Andes, at about half way between the foot and the summit, there is a cottage in which the ascending and descending travelers meet. The former, who have just quitted the sultry valleys at the base, are so relaxed, that the sudden diminution of temperature produces in them a feeling of intense cold; while the latter, who left the frozen summit of the mountain are overcome by distressing sensations of extreme heat. If on a cold winter's morning we go from a warm bed to a bath of sixty to seventy degrees Fahr., the water appears cold. If we then plunge immediately into water which is at about the freezing point, and then return again to the water at sixty to seventy degrees Fahr., it appears warm. When the temperature of the atmosphere is at fifty five degrees Fahr., in November or October, in this latitude, and the body of a comfortable degree of warmth, and we take three basins of water at sixty, seventy, and eighty degrees Fahr., placing one hand in the water at sixty degrees, the other in that at eighty degrees, letting them remain thirty seconds in each, and then immerse them both in the water at seventy degrees, it appears to one cold, to the other warm. But we can arrive at rules which approximate so nearly to the actual truth, that they will serve us, as before remarked, for guides in all practical and scientific purposes. The Cold Bath. With a majority of persons, and at most seasons of the year, water at from seventy to eighty degrees Fahr. downward, gives, when immersed in it, a sensation of coldness. The spring water of all countries furnishes what may therefore be called a cold bath, although there will be a range of many degrees variation in what we term cold. The Tepid Bath. The word tepid is from the Latin tepeo, to be warm. The true English meaning of the term, however, is, according to Mr. Webster, moderately warm, or lukewarm; in other words, water which, when a person is immersed in it, gives a kind of indefinable sensation, one which, coming properly under the term neither cold nor warm, is said to be tepid. This temperature will be found to range at from eighty to ninety two degrees Fahr. The Warm Bath. The term warm is generally well understood. It means that temperature of water which is peculiarly agreeable to the sensations. Fresh drawn milk or blood we say are warm. The temperature of water which will cause this sensation 'Varies from ninety two to ninety~. eight degrees Fahr. The Vapor Bath. The temperature of the vapor of simple water varies from about ninety degrees Fahr. upward, according to the heat of the water, and the space through which the vapor passes. The Hot Bath. The term hot is also expressive of its proper meaning. If the body is immersed in water above blood heat, it causes an uncomfortable sensation, which we designate as hot. Hot water is a disturber of the vital functions, particularly if the whole body is immersed in it. Hot baths, therefore, should be used, if ever, only in a most urgent necessity. Hot water, in no form whatever, entered into any part of Priessnitz's treatment. Having thus explained the temperatures of the different divisions of the bath, it is proper to state them in a tabular form, the better to aid the memory. They are as follows: Cold bath, from freezing point, 32 to 85 F. Tepid 80 to 92 Warm 92 to 980 Vapor 901 and upward Hot above 98. I now propose to explain somewhat minutely, and at the same time with a due regard to the needs of the non professional reader, the physiological effects of each of the several kinds of bath, and I here respectfully premise that any one who attempts to practice the water treatment without having in his mind clear notions upon this subject is, to say the least, as much a ,groper in the dark " as he who attempts the practice of drugs of which he knows nothing, upon the living body of which be knows less. How can a man be trusted in water treatment if he cannot tell beforehand what effect a bath is to have; and this he cannot, if he does not fully understand the meaning of the terms which I have here explained. Effects of the Cold Bath. The effects of the cold bath are properly spoken of under two heads, the primary and the secondary. The terms are sufficiently expressive of their meaning. The first are those which take place at the time of the immersion; the second, those that occur later, constituting what we understand by the term reaction. Immediately on immersion in cold water, the bather experiences some acceleration of respiration and the heart's action, although the pulse becomes at the same time smaller and weaker. Very soon, however, the panting, if I may so call it, passes off ; the temperature of the body is found diminished, the surface paler than natural, the skin taking on that form of appearance known as ,goose flesh." The first effect of cold water applied to the body, generally, is to abstract a certain amount of heat from the surface, to constringe the capillary vessels, and to force the blood inward. Now, as the living body possesses the remarkable property of maintaining its temperature at very nearly the same point, whether it is in a colder or hotter medium than itself, the vitals at once set to work in restoring the caloric abstracted by the contact of the water; and as the functions of circulation and calorification go necessarily together, the vital power, acting through the heart and blood vessels, attempts a return of the blood that had been forced inward by the coldness of the water. This is what we call reaction. If the individual is sufficiently strong and well stocked with vitality, the blood is quickly returned to the surface and to the extremities (which are always most liable to become cold, being farthest from the heart), constituting what is termed good, or vigorom reaction. But if the surface and extremities continue to remain unwarmed by this return of the blood to them, as happens in the case of feeble persons, there is said to be poor, or insufficient reaction. It would then be necessary to give some warming medicine to start the blood circulating. Effects of the Tepid Bath. The tepid bath, which we have seen ranges from eighty to ninety two degrees Fahr., produces effects analogous to those of the cold bath, only not so lasting and permanent. It is especially useful in the treatment of infants and children, and in all cases where the reactive energy is feeble. If in any case we are in doubt as to whether the cold bath is admissible, the tepid form will be a milder measure, and at the same time serve as a test in venturing upon the cold. The tepid bath may be continued longer at a time, which in some cases will be found an advantage. Effects of the Warm Bath. There is among hydropathic physicians, if I am not mistaken, too great a fear of warm applications on the part of some, while others go to the opposite extreme. Mark, I speak of warm applications. Hot, as before remarked, have no proper place in hydropathy, a rule to which the exceptions are few. The warm bath, as before remarked, ranges from ninety two to ninety~ eight degrees Fahr. It is not the most useful of the hydropathic resources, but one of the most useful, as I shall endeavor hereafter to show. Among the ancient Romans the warm bath was not considered as a means of luxurious indulgence that tended to weaken the vital powers, but a means of refreshment for the wearied traveler, and of preparing him for the repast and the enjoyment of other rites of hospitality. The effect of the warm bath is not one of debility, as many suppose, but, on the contrary, it is a sedative, lowering the heart's action and the circulation, and tending to repose rather than excitement. Effects of the Hot Bath. The hot bath, before remarked, is one which is above the temperature of the blood, ninety eight degrees Fahr. It was laid down as a precept by Hippocrates, that a bath enfeebles when the heat exceeds that of the body immersed in it. The truth of this precept has often been verified in practice. I do not wish to be understood as affirming that hot applications can never be made with benefit to the body; on the contrary, heat applied to a part locally may be of service, although I am inclined to believe that even in those cases where heat acts in a beneficial way, some other form of hydropathic appliance can be used more beneficially. I make, it will be remembered, a broad distinction between the terms hot and warm.

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