Mouth-breathing is a fairly common condition. It is due to a variety of causes, the chief of which is obstruction in the nose from adenoids. The effect of mouth-breathing upon the health when it is continued for a long period is serious, and even when the condition is supposed to be entirely the result of habit it should never be neglected.
An American pamphlet on mouth-breathing has on the front page the sub-title " Shut your mouth and save your life." There is a good deal of truth in the aphorism. It is certainly a fact that the child or adult who habitually breathes by the mouth is exposed to much greater danger of infection. The nose is so constructed as to warm and filter the air before it passes down to the bronchi and lungs. If the air is breathed in, not by the nostrils, as Nature intends, but by the mouth, it contains large quantities of dust and dirt and germs, and is also several degrees colder.
The result is that the particles it contains irritate the lining membrane of the throat and air passages, and give rise to frequent attacks of tonsilitis as well as exposing the mouth-breather to greater risks of infection from diphtheria, pneumonia, and consumption.
Whenever a child is observed to breathe habitually through the mouth, he should have the throat and nose examined by a doctor.
The chief causes of this condition are :
Some obstruction in the nose. It may be that the septum in the nostrils is pushed to one side, and a chronic inflammatory condition of the nose results.
Enlarged tonsils and chronic tonsilitis will also produce more or less persistent mouth-breathing, because the child is so frequently subject to cold in the head that he gets into the habit of breathing by the mouth.
Apart from the health dangers of mouth-breathing, its effect upon the expression is so marked that it should not be neglected. A habitual mouth-breather appears dull and somewhat stupid, whilst if the mouth-breathing is associated with adenoids, real deformity of the chest may follow. Night terrors, headache, and defective hearing are often associated with catarrh of the nose and throat, because the catarrhal condition of the throat spreads to the ear through the Eustachian tubes.
Treatment consists in finding out the cause and removing it if possible. The tonsils may require attention, either painting or removal. Any adenoids must be removed at once if the child's mental and bodily development is not to be checked. If the mouth-breathing is due to habit, the child must be given nose-breathing exercises by day, whilst a chin-strap at night will encourage breathing by the nose. A light, nourishing diet, plenty of fresh air, and hygienic surroundings must be observed carefully.
Mouth, Sore, may be caused by a variety of conditions. Decayed teeth will produce ulceration of the gums and a chronic inflammatory condition of these parts. The septic condition of the mouth affects the general health, and headache, listlessness, and various nervous symptoms are often associated. The whole general health may be undermined by the fact that a tooth stump which has been allowed to remain in the mouth suppurates, or becomes "septic."
Other simple causes of sore mouth are excessive smoking, burning by hot fluids or caustics, and, in the case of children, dirty comforters. After taking certain drugs, there may be some inflammation of the mouth mucous membrane. In various illnesses, when the vitality is lowered, such as in acute fevers, an ulcerative condition of the mouth may occur.
In treatment, the cause must be attended to, particularly if it is due to the teeth. The teeth will have to be stopped and stumps removed. Excess of tartar may in itself cause inflammation of the mouth, so that the dentist should be asked to scrape away any tartar. Particularly jagged teeth must be attended to, and the general health built up if the mouth condition is secondary to depressed vitality. Some simple mouth-wash will require to be used, such as boracic acid lotion (a teaspoonful to a teacupful), or a teaspoonful of tincture of myrrh, a teaspoonful of glycerine, and a teaspoonful of borax to a tumblerful of hot water. If ulcers are present, they will have to be touched by a caustic, but only the doctor can do this. Chlorate of potash (a teaspoonful to a tumblerful of water) also makes a good wash for the mouth. Milk and slop diet will have to be taken whilst there is any acute inflammatory condition preventing the mastication of solid foods.
Mumps is an infectious disease characterised by fever and inflammatory swelling of the parotid gland, which lies under the skin in front of the ear. Mumps appear especially in spring and autumn, and children and young adults most frequently contract this ailment. It spreads rapidly from patient to patient, especially in schools. About a fortnight or three weeks after exposure to infection the child becomes fevered, and complains of pain just below the ear on one side. Here a slight swelling develops, which spreads rapidly, until the neck and side of the cheek are enlarged.
After a day or two, the other side becomes affected. Speaking and swallowing are difficult, but the pain is not very severe. Gradually, in about a week, the swelling subsides, and the child becomes convalescent. In most cases the illness is not very serious, but various complications may result. The other gland may become involved, deafness may follow, and meningitis has occasionally occurred; but, as a rule, the disease passes through a mild course. The child should be kept in one room, and put to bed as long as there is any temperature. A purgative at the beginning of the attack should be given. Liquid diet is necessary. Hot applications over the glands or cold compresses should be applied. These consist simply in wringing flannel or cotton-wool out of hot water or out of cold water, placing it on the glands and covering with oilskin. Medicines are generally unnecessary, and, with the exception of purgatives, must always be ordered by the doctor. (See also page 1943, Vol. 3.)