Bathing should al.\vays he done under the advice of a physician, but soap and water are great restoratives. In most cases, washing and properly drying the skin gives great relief. Care should be taken, while sponging and cleansing, not to expose too great a surface at a time, so as to check perspiration. The physician will regulate the temperature. Sometimes a little vinegar, whisky, or alcohol added to the water, makes the bath more refreshing, and bay-rum for the face, neck, and hands is often acceptable. Whenever the bath is followed by a sense of oppression, it has done harm. Its effect should be comfort and relief.
Chamber utensils should be emptied and thoroughly cleansed immediately after using, and in no case allowed to remain standing in the sickroom. Slop-pails, into which nothing should be allowed to go except the waste water from the wash stand, must be emptied and cleansed thoroughly at least twice a day.
It is well for both nurse and patient to remember that nothing relieves nausea or vomiting sooner than drinking hot water in as great quantity and as hot as possible. Placing the hands in hot water up to the wrists, a flannel or other cloth, dipped in hot water and laid five or six folds thick, on any pained part, will relieve suffering more' promptly than all the painkillers in the world. Cover the wet flannel with another dry one, the edges of which extend over the wet one an inch or more. In about five minutes slip the wet flannel out and put in its place another as hot as can be handled, taking care to let as little cold air as possible touch the skin over which the hot flannel has been applied. When pain is relieved, put on towels wet in cool water and cover with flannel; leave, for an hour or more, remove and wipe dry, rubbing vigorously. These hot applications will often relieve a violent, dry cough in a few minutes, and in some forms of croup will cure in half an hour. ,
Patients are often killed by kindness. A spoonful of improper food, or the indulgence of some whim, may prove fatal. A physician's directions should always be observed with the strictest fidelity. Medicines and things which will be wanted during the night should all be prepared before the patient grows sleepy. Every thing should be done quickly but quietly, and with precision. In talking, sit where the patient can see you without turning his head. Never ask questions when he is doing any thing, and never lean or sit upon the bed. Sick persons generally prefer to be told any thing rather than to have it read to them. A change in the ornaments of the room is a great relief, and the sick especially enjoy bright and beautiful things. Flowers, which do not have a pungent odor, are always a great delight.
In convalescence great care is necessary, and the physician's directions should be implicitly obeyed, especially in regard to diet; a failure in obedience often brings on a fatal relapse, A little food at a time and often repeated, is the general rule for the sick. A table-spoon of beef-tea, every half hour, will be digested, when a cupful every three or four hours will be rejected. (In giving a drink or liquid of any kind a moustache-cup will be found a great convenience.) The sick can rarely take solid food before eleven in the morning, and a spoonful of beef-tea, or whatever stimulant the physician has ordered, given every hour or two, relieves exhaustion. Brandy, whisky, or other alcoholic stimulants, however, should never be ordered in cases where there is a hereditary tendency to use them, or where they have been used as a beverage, or where the associations of the patient in the future would be likely to make an acquired taste for them a temptation. In most cases substitutes may readily be found. Untouched food should never be left at the bed-side. Every meal should be a surprise, and the patient should be left alone while eating. Food for the sick must be of the best quality, and neatly and delicately prepared. The cook should do half the patient's digesting. Keep the cup and saucer dry, so that no drops will fall on the bed or clothing.
Beef-tea contains a certain amount of nourishment, and may be given in almost any inflammatory disease. Eggs do not agree with all patients, but are nourishing food when admissible. Tenderloin of beef, cut across the grain, and broiled on live coals, without smoke, and well cooked or rare, as the physician may direct, is always relished; and a tender lamb-chop, broiled in the same way, with the fat removed before serving, is easily digested and nutritious. Roasted potatoes, very mealy, are preferred to other vegetables. Milk is a representative diet; and, when it agrees with the digestion, is probably better adapted to strengthen the body in sickness than any other one article of food, but it must be fresh and pure. The least taint of sourness is injurious. Butter-milk, however, when fresh, is useful in fevers, bilious diseases and dyspepsia. Cream is even better than milk, and is less apt to turn acid in the stomach. Many patients thrive on Indian-meal mush and cream, and any preparations of Indian-meal are especially good for persons who are suffering from the loss of natural warmth (see Bread-making). Oat-meal, Graham and rye mush, and homemade brown-bread, are important articles of diet, greatly relished by the sick. There are instances of persons recovering from serious illness where a table-spoon of rye mush, and half tea-cup butter-milk, three times a day, were all that could be taken for two or three weeks. A patient's craving for any particular article of food should be communicated to the physician, as it is often a valuable indication of the wants of the system. These cravings should be gratified whenever possible. Melons act on the kidneys, and are good in many cases of fever, bowel complaint, etc. Celery also is good in some diseases of the kidneys, and in nervousness and rheumatism. Fresh, crisp, raw cabbage, sliced fine and eaten with good vinegar, is easily digested, and often highly relished by a patient suffering from a "weak stomach." New cider is also excellent in many cases of nervous dyspepsia. Fruits and berries - raw, ripe and perfect - used in moderation, are admirable remedies in cases of constipation and its attendant diseases. The grape has a wide range of curative qualities. The seeds are excellent for costiveness; the pulp is very nutritious and soothing to irritated bowels, while the skins, if chewed, act as an astringent. Raw beef is excellent in dysentery; it should be minced very fine, and given in doses of a spoonful at a time every four hours, the patient, in the meantime, eating nothing else. Bananas or baked apples are good in chronic diarrhoea. A rind of bacon is good for teething children to chew. Rice-water or rice-jelly are advisable in many cases of convalescence from acute fever, summer complaint and like diseases. Fresh pop-corn, nicely salted, clam-broth, the juice of a roasted oyster in the shell, soda-water and peppermint-tea are remedies for sick stomach. Vegetable acid drinks, herb-teas, toast-water, and all such drinks are often much relished. A custard made from a preparation of liquid rennet, as directed on bottle, is a delicate dish. Buttered-toast, either dry or dipped, though so generally given, is rarely a suitable article for the sick, as melted oils are very difficult of digestion. In quinsy, diphtheria, inflammation of lungs, typhus and other putrid fevers, acids are of very great benefit. Take a handful of dried currants, pour over them a pint of boiling water, let them stand half a minute without stirring, then drain off the water, strain it through a cloth, and set it away to cool; when given to the patient, dilute well, so that the acid taste is very slight. Acid fruits should be eaten early in the day. Above all, it should be remembered, that it is not the nourishment which food contains, but that which the stomach can assimilate, that builds up; a sick person will thrive on what would not sustain a well man.
It is of the utmost importance that the food be delicately and carefully administered, and this should never be left to servants. It should be made as attractive as possible, served in the choicest ware, with the cleanest of napkins, and the brightest of silver. If tea is served, it should be freshly drawn, in a dainty cup, with a block of white sugar, and a few drops of sweet cream. Toast should be thin, symmetrical, well yellowed, free from crust, and just from the fire. Steak should be a cut of the best tenderloin, delicately broiled, and served with the nicest of roasted potatoes. The attention given to these simple matters is, in many cases, worth more than the physician's prescriptions.
The craving for tea and coffee is almost universal with the sick. A moderate quantity is a great restorative; but an excess, especially of coffee, impairs digestion. Neither should be given after five in the afternoon, as they increase excitement and cause sleeplessness; but sleeplessness from exhaustion in the early morning is often relieved by a cup of tea or coffee. The patient's taste will decide which should be used. In cases of thirst, the physician will prescribe what other drink should be given to satisfy it, Cocoa is not often craved by the sick, and possesses no stimulating qualities. Crust-coffee is very nourishing.
A very simple means of refreshing the nurse, and a valuable disinfectant, if the nature of the invalid's complaint does not forbid it - that is seldom the case - is to put some pure, fresh-ground coffee on a saucer, or other dish, and in the center place a very small piece of camphor-gum, and touch a match to it. As the gum burns, allow sufficient coffee to consume to per-, vade the atmosphere with the aroma; it is wonderful in its invigorating effects.
The following recipe makes a delicious, refreshing and cooling wash for the sick-room:
Take of rosemary, wormwood, lavender, rue, sage and mint a large handful of each. Place in a stone jar, and turn over it one gallon of strong cider vinegar, cover closely, and keep near the fire for four days; then strain, and add one ounce of pounded camphor-gum. Bottle and keep tightly corked.
There is a French legend connected with this preparation (called vinaigre a quatre voleurs). During the plague at Marseilles, a band of robbers plundered the dying and the dead without injury to themselves. They were imprisoned, tried and condemned to die, but were pardoned on condition of disclosing the secret whereby they could ransack houses infected with the terrible scourge. They gave the above recipe. Another mode of using it, is to wash the face and hands with it before exposing one's self to any infection. It is very aromatic and refreshing in the sick-room; so, if it can accomplish nothing more, it is of great value to nurses.