The sick-room should be the lightest, most cheerful, and best ventilated room in the house. Patients in the sunny wards of hospitals recover soonest, and the sick, in nearly all cases, lie with their faces to the light. Every thing should be kept in perfect neatness and order. Matting is better than a carpet, though, when the latter is used, it may be kept clean by throwing a few damp tea-leaves over only a part of the room at a time, then quietly brushing them up with a hand-broom. A table not liable to injury, a small wicker basket with compartments to hold the different bottles of medicine and a small book in which to write all the physician's directions, two baskets made on the same plan to hold glasses or cups, screens to shade the light from the eyes of the patient, a nursery-lamp with which to heat water, beef-tea, etc., a quill tied on the door-handle with which the nurse can notify others that the patient is asleep by merely passing the feather-end through the key-hole, several "ring cushions" to give relief to patients compelled to lie continually in one position (these cushions are circular pieces of old linen sewed together and stuffed with bran; or pads may be used, made of cotton-batting basted into pieces of old muslin of any size required), and a sick couch or chair, are a few of the many conveniences which ought to be in every sick-room.
Pure air in a sick-room is of the utmost importance. In illness, the poisoned body is desperately trying to throw off, through lungs, skin, and in every possible way, the noxious materials that have done the mischief. Bad air and dirty or saturated bed-clothes, increase the difficulty at the very time when the weakened powers need all the help they can get. Avoid air from kitchen or close closets. Outside air is the best, but, if needed, there should be a fire in the room to take off the chill. A cold is rarely taken in bed, with the bed-clothes well tucked in, but oftener in getting up out of a warm bed when the skin is relaxed. Of course any thing like a "chill " should be avoided, and it is not well to allow a draft or current of air to pass directly over the bed of the patient.
A good way to secure a supply of fresh air, without a draft, is to have a board five or six inches wide, and as long as the width of the window; raise the lower sash, place board under it, and the fresh air finds its way in between the sash by an upward current,
In disease less heat is produced by the body than in health. This decline occurs even in summer, and is usually most evidens in the early morning, when the vital powers slacken, the food of the previous day having been exhausted. The sick should be watched between midnight and ten or eleven in the morning, and if any decline in heat is noticed, it should be supplied by jugs of hot water. A sick-room should, above all, be quiet. Any rustling sound, such as that of a silk dress or shoes which creak, should be entirely avoided. If it is necessary to put coal on the fire, drop it on quietly in small paper sacks, or rolled in paper slightly dampened. Visitors should never be admitted to a sick-room. The necessary attendants are usually a sufficient annoyance to a weak patient, and many a tombstone might truthfully and appropriately be inscribed, "Talked to death by well-meaning friends." It is not generally the loudness of a noise that disturbs the sick, but the sound that produces expectation of something to happen. Some can not bear any noise. Any thing that suddenly awakens is injurious. Never awaken a sleeping patient unless ordered to do so by the physician. In sickness, the brain is weakened with the rest of the body, and sleep strengthens it. If rest is interrupted soon after it is begun, the brain is weakened so much the more, and the patient becomes irritable and wakeful. If sleep lasts longer, he falls asleep again more readily. Never speak within the hearing of the sick, in tones which can not be fully understood. An occasional word, or murmur of conversation, or whisper, is intolerable, and occasions needless apprehension.
Few persons have any idea of the exquisite neatness necessary in a sickroom. What a well person might endure with impunity, may prove fatal to a weak patient. Especially the bed and bedding should be scrupulously clean. In most diseases the functions of the skin are disordered, and the clothing becomes saturated with foul perspiration, so that the patient alternates between a cold damp after the bed is made, and a warm damp before, both poison to his system. Sheets which are used should be dried often from this poisonous damp, either in the sun or by the fire, and the mattress and blanket next the sheets should also be carefully aired as often as possible. In changing very sick patients (particularly women after confinement) the sheets and wearing-clothes should be well aired by hanging by the fire for two days. Move the patient close to one side of the bed, turn the under sheet over close to the invalid, then smooth the mattress, removing any thing that may be on it. Make ready the clean sheet, by rolling one-half into a round roil, lay this close by the invalid, spread the other half smoothly over the bed. Now assist the patient on the clean sheet, unroll and spread over the other side of the bed. Have the upper sheet ready, which must be carefully and gently laid over the invalid, then add the other bed-clothes. (In dressing a blister where a bandage has to be placed around the body, roll one-half the bandage, place it under the invalid, so that the attendant at the other side can reach it, unrolling, and placing it around the patient without disturbing him.) Light blankets are best for coverings. Never use the impervious cotton counterpanes and comforters. The clothing should be as light as possible with the requisite warmth. The bed should be low, and placed in the light, and as a rule the pillows should be low, so as to give the lungs free play. Scrofula is sometimes caused by children sleeping with their heads under the clothing, and patients sometimes acquire the same injurious habit.