The Wet Sheet Pack.
IN this process a coarse linen or cotton sheet is used, long enough to reach from the patient's head to the soles of his feet, and about two yards in width. The bed is stripped of all its covering, one or two pillows only being left for the bead. One or two comforters are then spread upon it, and over these the same number of woolen blankets, which are less injured by wet than cotton comfortable. The sheet having been. pretty well wrung out of cold water, always pure and soft, if such can be had, is then spread out smoothly upon the blanket. The patient being undressed, lays himself upon the sheet, and, his arms being held up, an assistant laps one side of it over the body and lower limbs; when, the arms being dropped at the side, the other part of the sheet is, in like manner, lapped over. The blankets are then, one by one, brought over the person in the same way, and tucked under from head to foot. Comfortable may be added, if necessary.
It is always best to place a wet towel, covered with a dry one, on the patient's head while he is packed. If too much chill is not produced, the dry one may be left off.
This is the ordinary way of taking a pack in chronic disease.
The wet sheet is one of the most soothing and agreeable of all the water appliances. Hence it is that it is so often misused. It is so delightful, and tends so much to produce slumber, that the patient never feels ready to get out of it. But this slumber, so profound and sweet as it often is, he should remember, may be only an apoplectic stupor, which leaves him with a swimming head, attended with faintness, perhaps, and ending in a severe headache; giving him, in short, a congestion of the brain. All this happens in consequence of robbing the skin too long of the air it should breathe.
There has been a notion at some of the establishments that the wet sheet is to be used for sweating; and to this end, the patient has been literally stewed hour after hour, in some cases, even four, five, and six hours in succession, with the view of sweating him. AR such practice is hurtful. If the patient gets better under it, it is in consequence of the good effects of water used in other ways, coupled with the ever important adjuncts, air, exercise and diet. In later times, Priessnitz never sweat patients at all, much less in wet sheets. If a man must sweat, leave off the wet sheet assuredly, as that only hinders the operation. Use the blanket pack or the vapor bath.
Now Long shall the Pack Continue? Here, too, there has been, and still is, much error in hydropathic practice. ,Stay in the pack till you get warm," has been the old doctrine. But some get warm at first, and afterward get cold ; so at least they feel. What is to be done ?
One of Priessnitz's improvements was to give short packs. , Remain enveloped for fifteen or twenty minutes only," he said. , If you are not able to bear the pack in that way, take the rubbing wet sheet and the lighter processes until you are." In some cases be gave two or three of these short packs in succession, the patient rising between each to take an airing, a rubbing wet sheet, or other bath, and then returning to the pack.
Thus far the wet sheet has been spoken of as used in chronic diseases. In acute attacks it is managed differently, according to the case. If the object be to abstract caloric from the body, we cover the sheet but little, with a single dry sheet, or a blanket or two, or, perhaps, with none of these.
We know that if we keep a wet towel about a keg of water on a hot clay, the water will be made cooler by evaporation. In the same way, when a patient is hot and feverish, we keep one, or, still better, two wet sheets around him, without other covering, and thus bring down the heat and circulation to any desirable degree. We sprinkle water upon the sheets, or rewet them as often as is necessary, in some extreme cases of fever continuing them a whole week or more. Experience teaches, , that the continuous application of the wet linen is, in such cases, a most serviceable application, and one that tends most powerfully to induce in the dermoid structure its natural and healthful state.
The Wet Sheet Acts by Absorption. It draws morbific matter out of the body, m any one may see who applies the sheet for a short time, and then washes it. Observe, too, what an odor comes from the sheet when a diseased patient has been packed. At the same time, it absorbs the pure water into its finest tissues on a large scale, thus supplying that fluid which of all substances the system, under such circumstances, most needs. This moist warmth of the sheet also acts as a most soothing poultice.
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