IN prescribing for disease, it is of very great importance to take notice of the constitution. This is a different matter from the temperaments. Persons of the same temperament are often quite unlike in the strength of their constitution. And those having good natural constitutions, frequently abuse them by improper habits and indulgences, and at length come to have broken and very feeble constitutions.
Some persons' muscles and other tissues are put together as if they were never intended to come apart. Like some of the woods of the forest, the lignum vitae for example, they are fine grained and tough. A real smart boy will wear out an iron rocking4iorse sooner than one of these persons can exhaust their constitution by hard work. Others, to outward appearance equally well made, have very little endurance, break down easily under hard work, and lose their flesh from trifling causes.
The state of the constitution, therefore, should always be learned before much medicine is given; for what a person of a strong constitution will need, may greatly injure a feeble person, even of the same temperament.
Habits. These must likewise be attended to. Persons using stimulants require larger doses of medicine to affect them than other persons.
Climate. Medicines act differently on the same persons in summer and winter. Narcotics act more powerfully in hot weather and climates than in cold, and must be given in smaller doses.
Idiosyncrasy. Medicines of only ordinary activity, act very powerfully, and even violently on some persons. This is owing to a peculiarity of stomach, or constitution, called idiosyncrasy. It makes the person, in this particular, an exception to the general rule. And no physician can know beforehand in what particulars this exceptional disposition will show itself. Persons, however, learn their own idiosyncrasies, and should make them known to those who prescribe for them for the first time.
The Sex~ The peculiarities of each sex should never be forgotten in prescribing for the sick.
Males are not so sensitive as females. They will bear more medicine, and their nervous system is not so readily excited by, it.
Influence of Age. Human life is divided into infancy, childhood, youth, manhood, and old age. Each of these periods has peculiarities which modify disease.
The First Period, extending from birth to the age of seven years, is marked by tenderness and excitability, and is alive to every irritation. Teething and other disturbances occur at this period, and need careful management.
The Second Period extends from seven to fourteen, and is quite subject to disease, including the second dentition. During these two periods there is no great difference between the sexes; both are tender, and need careful watching.
During the Third Period, the changes occur which mark and separate the sexes. This is a developing period, when the functions become established, and the frame acquires form, proportion, and strength.
At this time, hereditary tendencies to disease, latent till now, begin to show themselves, and call for every possible endeavor to break them up, and fortify the constitution.
The Fourth Period embraces the vigorous maturity of life, when the powers of body and mind, in both sexes, are at the summit of their excellence. The functions are now well established. It is during this period that the female is subject to most of the harassing ailments peculiar to her sex. So numerous are these complaints, and so large and valued the class of persons affected by them, that he who treats them with the greatest skill, and with the delicacy which their nature demands, may be said to be at the head of his profession.
The Fifth Period is that of old age, when the functions are declining, and the frame is bending under the weight of years. Old age begins earlier with females than with males. Many ailments are common to this period, which require peculiar management, both medicinal and hygienic.
Proper Frequency of Dose. Each succeeding dose should be given before the effect of the preceding is gone. If this rule is not attended to, the cure does not advance. What is gained by each dose is lost by the rallying of the disease in the interval. Care must be taken, however, not to apply this rule too strictly with very active medicines.
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