Colds in the nursery are always a serious consideration in winter, first, because they lower the health tone of any child contracting them, and, secondly, because cold in the head very rapidly spreads from one child to another.
It is important, therefore, that mothers and nurses should learn all they can about the causes and prevention of colds. Children "catch cold" for many varied reasons. In the first place a child, especially a young child, is very susceptible to changes of temperature. The skin is sensitive. The child's body, being smaller in bulk, loses heat much more rapidly than the body of an adult does. Then, most children are over-clothed, and, especially in the nurseries of the rich, overfed and over-coddled. The skin is made more sensitive by over-clothing, and one of the first things that must be remembered in the management of children is to keep the skin healthy by daily washing of the body with tepid water, followed by brisk friction with a rough towel.
Clothing should consist of as few garments as possible. Too many clothes, especially if they are at all tight, restrict the child's movements. The body should be kept warm, not by heavy clothing, but by exercise and proper food. A light woollen combination garment next to the skin should always be worn. It will keep the vital parts warm, and prevents the moisture being retained against the skin, since evaporation will be possible.
Apart from infection, one of the chief causes of cold in the nursery is bad air. We know more about hygiene than our grandmothers did, and have improved upon early Victorian methods of bringing up children. At the same time, a stuffy nursery is only too common, even nowadays. On wet days children are often kept shut up in the nursery with closed windows. After an hour or two all the pure air in the nursery is used up, and they spend the rest of the day breathing over and over again the air they have expired charged with noxious gases. The result is the vitality of their whole respiratory tract is lowered, and next day when they go out of doors they are liable to chill.
Cold in the head is always due to infection, but chill and stuffy rooms make the child succumb to infection. If, instead of playing in a stuffy nursery when they cannot get out of doors, the room is properly ventilated, and the children are turned out of the room once or twice in the day when all the doors and windows are opened for a few minutes, they would probably escape cold in the head.
The very first point in the prevention of cold is efficient ventilation day and night in children's rooms. Sensible feeding, which we have already considered, will also help to do away with cold in the nursery. Many doctors have noted that a cold in the head often follows an attack of biliousness or dyspepsia. The reason eating causes obstruction to the circulation of the digestive organs. This influences the whole circulatory system, and obstruction to circulation is the first stage of inflammation.
What Is a "Cold"?
"Cold" is inflammation of the structures of the respiratory system. Thus, sensible diet and the absence of over-feeding would prevent a great many causes of colds.
During the winter, children often contract cold at the various festivities of the season. A children's party is a fruitful source of cold. there is the risk of chill after dancing or playing in hot rooms. Secondly, over-eating of indigestible foods has the penalty of cold in the head next morning. Thirdly, the risk of infection from one child to another is certainly a consideration.
At all such gatherings there is at least one child present sniffing and coughing and distributing the germs of cold in the head around him. If the room is well ventilated, the germs, of course, have less chance of doing any harm, but if the room is stuffy, if the children are overheated, and they breathe these microbes into their lungs, they are very liable to succumb to the infection, especially if they get out into the cold air afterwards insufficiently wrapped up, and become chilled.
When a child catches cold, if he has no rise of temperature he does not require to stay in bed. A gentle aperient and light diet for a day or two are advisable. If there is a rise in temperature, the child should be kept in bed, and treated with light diet and other measures advised in the article on feverishness, for a few days.
A practical point for mothers to remember is the danger of cold spreading from one child to another through using the same handkerchief or sleeping in the same bed. It is a little difficult to get a young child to inhale medicated steam, but the main point is to keep him warm, give hot drinks and light diet, and to have the room well ventilated and kept warm with a fire. In ordinary cold in the head no other measures are necessary.
The application of a little vaseline and eucalyptus oil in the strength of a drachm of oil to an ounce of vaseline may be applied to the nostrils with a camelhair brush. few drops of eucalyptus oil sprinkled on the under is a good thing.
It is inhaled as it evaporates, thus compelling the child to breathe an antiseptic atmosprhere.