Continued from, page 2546, Part 21
Myopia, Or Short Sight, is due to an anatomical defect in the shape of the eye, and rays of light are brought to a focus before reaching the retina, the sensitive membrane at the back of the eye. Vision is, in consequence, indistinct, unless objects are held very near the eye. Near sight rarely develops until about eight years of age, but the condition is apt to be progressive unless treatment is immediately applied. Short sight is said to be on the increase nowadays, due partly to the excessive use of the eyes in the schools. Such occupations as fine sewing, writing, or reading in a poor light, as with badly constructed desks and defective lighting of the schoolroom, all co-operate in producing short sight.
In the early stages, a great deal can be done by resting the eyes and by providing a child with a healthy outdoor life to check the tendency. Suitable glasses to correct the error of refraction must always be provided. Otherwise, through strain, the condition gets rapidly worse, and permanent damage may be done to the eye, whilst there is some risk of blindness. Glasses should always be ordered by a qualified doctor, a specialist in eyesight, because they must exactly correct the error of refraction, or they will do more harm than good. Whenever a child seems to see the blackboard with difficulty, to hold the book very near the eyes, and to suffer from headache and fatigue, the matter should be attended to at once.
The subject of sight will be considered under a general article, when diagrams and tests for different types of defective eyesight will be given. Any child subject to short sight should have a great deal of sleep, and as much exercise as possible in the open air, so long as excessive fatigue is avoided. The child should, if possible, never work in artificial light, and sometimes a few months' absence from lessons altogether will be necessary if the condition is to be checked in an early stage.
Naevus, of Birthmark, is a variety of vascular mole, and when it exists on the face, especially if it is of any size, it may cause a good deal of annoyance, although it is not really troublesome, except from the point of view of personal appearance. The smaller naevi can be readily dealt with by electrolysis. Radium treatment has a most wonderful effect upon them. One or two applications is often followed by complete disappearance. When a child is found to have a naevus at birth, it is just as well to have it excised, or treated by electrolysis or radium, by a surgeon.
Nails. The nails are a very good indication as to the state of the general health, especially of the circulation. Filbert-shaped nails are considered a point of beauty, but they are often associated with delicacy of constitution and physique. Whenever there is any interference with the circulation of blood, such as occurs in various heart affections, the nails are dusky in colour, whilst in anaemia they are too pale. White spots on the nails may be due to bruises, but they are often present when the health is not very good. After an illness the nail may show a ridge or mark right across it, dating from the disturbance of nutrition at the time of the illness. This may not disappear for months, as it takes four or five months for the complete growth of the nail from base to tip. By care and attention the nails can be very much improved in shape and texture. When they are too dry and inclined to be brittle, a little lanoline or vaseline should be rubbed into them. Careful cutting and pushing down of the skin covering the base will improve the shape and appearance of the nails.
Nasal Catarrh, or running of the nose, may be a sign simply of cold in the head, but it is often one of the first symptoms of measles. Chronic nasal catarrh is nearly always associated with some unhealthy condition of the part, such as adenoids. The child who is subject to frequent colds in the head should always be examined by a doctor. (See "Catarrh and Adenoids.")
Nausea, which is a feeling of sickness and discomfort, is a frequent symptom of digestive disorder. It may be the first sign of derangement of the stomach after errors in diet. It is often present in sick headache or migraine, and it usually appears early in the various infectious fevers. At a later stage it goes on to vomiting, which often relieves the sickness. Absolute rest in the horizontal position, with warmth in the form of hot water bottles, if there is any shivering, is necessary. Hot flannels over the stomach, or a mustard leaf in the same situation, will do good, and the sipping of very hot water is also an excellent measure. Food should be taken, or else given in very small quantities as milk diluted with barley water.
Neck, Stiff, is generally due to some rheumatic condition of the muscles at the side of the neck. Many people find that it will follow upon chill as a result, for example, when a cold draught blows directly upon the part through an open carriage-window. Gentle massage with warm olive oil or hot fomentations of flannel relieve the pain, and the stiffness passes off in a day or two. •
Neck, Wry, is a spasm of the muscles on one side of the neck, and it may be present at birth or appear at almost any age. In the first case one side of the neck is shorter than the other because of the contraction of the chin muscles in that part. Sometimes it is only observed in young children after a few years, although it has been actually present since the child was born. The condition is easily removed by a simple operation. When wry neck comes on in later life, the condition is generally spasmodic, due to hysteria, rheumatism, gout, or injury to the neck. Electrical treatment is, perhaps, the best thing in this case, combined with massage.
Nettle-rash, or Urticaria, is an eruption of the skin, consisting of circular patches, or wheals, which is accompanied by acute itching. The eruption is exactly as if the skin had been in contact with nettles, hence the name. It is nearly always associated with digestive derangement, due to mistakes in diet. For example, stale fish or meat, tinned food which has not kept well, mushrooms in excessive quantity, or shellfish of any kind will cause not only sickness and diarrhoea in certain people, but the appearance of nettle-rash as well. Children are subject to the condition if they are being improperly fed, especially by excess of food. Some people are very susceptible to this skin eruption. Others say that it comes on in any nervous excitement, or as the result of worry, but generally there is some dietetic reason as well. The rash usually appears suddenly, and may pass off in a few hours, or it may persist for a long time, coming and going without any apparent reason.
Treatment consists essentially in altering the diet so as to correct the digestive derangement present. A dose of salts should be given at the beginning of the attack. Magnesia is the best thing to administer to children. The itching can be dealt with by sponging with creoline lotion, whilst a child should be put into a warm bath to which has been added a teaspoonful of creoline stirred up in a cupful of water. Anyone subject to nettle-rash requires dieting and attention to general health and hygiene.