THIS is a dangerous disease. There is pain of a griping, twisting, tearing kind, what the ancients called atrocious pain. It is chiefly about the navel, but sometimes tortures the whole belly. It comes and goes in paroxysms. Sometimes the abdomen is drawn in, at other times it is swelled out, and stretched like a drumhead. At first the pain is relieved by pressure ; after a time the belly is tender to the touch. There is thirst and heat, and a discharge of bilious matter from the stomach. In the worst cases, the pulse is small, the face pale, the features shrunk, and the whole body covered with cold sweat. While the head is hot the feet are cold. In advanced stages of the disease, the action of the bowels is sometimes reversed, and the fecal matter forced up through the mouth, owing to impaction of feces or other obstructions of the bowel.
Causes. Costiveness, irritating substances in the bowels, thick, vitiated bile, long exposure to cold, torpidity of the liver and skin, great unnatural heat, with dampness, obstructed gall duct, etc.
These attacks are usually the result of indigestion in the upper bowel, near the bile ducts, creating a thick mucus which obstructs the passage of bile from the ducts into the bowels. A regulation of the duct, small doses of podophyllin or the acids, with daily doses of some mild bilious laxative, will prevent their return. Crab orchard water, sal muscatelle, and other simple medicines answer every purpose.
Treatment. Administer an active purgative injection immediately (251),(252). Internally, dioscorin, camphor, etc. (340), every fifteen minutes until relief is obtained, at the same time covering the whole belly with a large mustard poultice. A strong decoction of the wild yam root, drunk freely, is a medicine of some value, so is a decoction of skullcap and high cranberry bark, equal parts. This latter article is excellent in spasmodic affections, on which account it has gained the name of cramp bark. The sickness at the stomach may frequently be allayed by effervescing drafts, to which twenty five or thirty drops of lavender are added. Croton oil, given in one drop doses, done up with crumb of bread, will sometimes succeed well as a purgative medicine; or castor oil and spirits of turpentine, equal parts, in two great spoonful doses, may be tried before the croton oil.
The warm bath is worth remembering, and trying, too, if the means are at hand. Hot fomentations of the bowels with a decoction of poppy leaves, stramonium leaves, hops, wormwood, boneset, or peppermint leaves, should not be overlooked. Bottles filled with hot water, or hot bricks rolled in flannel, should be placed at the back and feet to promote perspiration.
Persons subject to this complaint may derive advantage from one pill composed of extract of high cranberry bark, etc. (100), taken after each meal for some months. At the same time a reasonable amount of exercise should be taken out of doors, and a sponge bath, with friction, be employed daily. Care should be taken not to be often exposed to the hot sun.
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