A Cold. Influenza.
A SLIGHT attack of the disease about to be described, affecting only here and there a person, and lasting only for a few days, is called a cold. When it affects a large part of the community at the same time, lasting many days, or even weeks, it is then an epidemic, and passes under the name of influenza. In this latter form, it sometimes spreads over a whole country, and has at times, as in 1832 and 1894, extended to nearly the whole civilized world. It often shows marked severity in its progress, and leaves serious results behind.
Symptoms. A tingling, with dryness, and a sense of fullness in the mucous membrane of the nose, are among the first indications of an attack of this complaint. Sneezing is a common symptom. Soon pain is felt in the forehead, and breathing through the nose becomes difficult. The eyes are red and watery, the throat is sore; there is a dry cough, hoarseness, thirst, general lassitude, chills, and a desire to get near the fire. The mucous membrane of the nose, throat, windpipe, and breathing tubes is inflamed, red, swollen, and sometimes painful.
In a short time, water begins to run from the nose and eyes, and the cough becomes a little more moist. There is also a slight disÂcharge from the throat and tubes, which gradually increases, and, at length, as the disease declines, and becomes less acute, the expectoration is thick and yellow.
Aching of the back and limbs, thirst, loss of appetite, flashes of heat, and chills whenever the patient is exposed to air a little cooler than he is accustomed to, are almost constant attendants upon the disease.
Causes. It is not always easy to say what the causes of this complaint are. Frequently, it can be traced to an improper exposure to cold or dampness; but in a great majority of cases, especially when it takes the form of influenza, the causes are not obvious. They probably exist in some peculiar states of the atmosphere, and in a depression of the nervous system.
The influence upon disease of the different degrees of density in the air which surrounds us, and of other circumstances affecting it, have not been much studied. Some valuable facts will be drawn from this source before many years. The putting upon the body, or taking from it, several tons of pressure every time the barometer rises or falls, must have, of itself, no small influence upon its health. The comparatively new science of Physical Geography, by spreading before us its interesting facts in regard to temperature, storms, atmospheric currents, etc., is opening the way for the physician to learn a great deal more about the causes of disease than he now knows.
Treatment. In mild cases, only the most simple treatment is required, such as remaining in the house for a few days, soaking the feet in warm water, taking a gentle sweat, drinking warm infusions of flax seed, mullein, slippery elm, or warm lemonade, and taking only a spare vegetable diet. If the bowels be costive, some gentle physic (34), (41) may be used. A laxative drink (132) will likewise be useful.
At the outset, especially when the nose runs water, a small dose of atropia I grain, taken every two hours till the throat is dry, will 1 ~~0 6 entirely arrest the disease at this point. The coryza pill found at the druggists' is a more valuable remedy still.
When the attack is more severe, sweating must be induced by decisive measures. This may be affected by the spirit vapor bath, or by putting the patient in bed, putting bottles of hot water to the feet and sides, and administering warm drinks, and the compound tineture of Virginia snakeroot. Five drops every hour of the tincture of veratrum viride will often cause very free perspiration, and will reduce the inflammation upon the mucous surface.
An emetic is sometimes very useful. To produce vomiting, use the powder of ipecac, ten to twenty grains, or the compound tincture of lobelia.
It soothes the inflamed mucous surfaces very much to inhale the vapor from half a pint of hot water, with five drops of tincture of veratrum viride, or the same amount of the tincture of aconite root.
If the cough is severe, use the preparations recommended under bronchitis and consumption.
In the latter stages of the disease, if there be debility, as there generally is, quinia, iron, nux vomica, etc. (75), should be taken; or, to support the nervous system, the extracts of skullcap, and boneset, and the sulphate of quinia (81) will be found useful. At this stage of the complaint, the diet should be more liberal and nourishing.
The patient should not venture into the open air until the unpleasant sense of chilliness, peculiar to the disease, ceases to be produced by exposure.
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