Poultices are made of a variety of materials, and require a certain amount of care if not skill for their proper preparation, and still more in their application to different parts of the body and limbs. To maintain them in position is often a matter of some difficulty, and requires of the attendant a considerable amount of tact and nice judgment, as we cannot look to our patient for assistance in these matters, but may expect more or less opposition. He will tread them off his feet, and often enough eat them, if in any convenient position to be got at.
The materials in most general use are bran, linseed meal, ground linseed, and bread, but any substance that will hold water and retain its temperature may be employed so long as it contains no objectionable properties. In country districts poultices are often prepared from turnips, potatoes, carrots, or other roots, Swedes being specially favoured in some parts.
The custom of using cold poultices has so far fallen into desuetude that we need only consider those employed to maintain warmth and moisture, with others to which certain medicaments are added for special purposes.
In this latter connection it is sometimes found necessary to employ such agents as mustard, carbolic acid, charcoal, chlorinated lime, belladonna, opium, etc. etc, and the prescriber who may desire to use them will, of course, give precise instructions, not only as to the agent to be used, but also as to whether it is to be mixed with the poultice, or merely placed upon it so as to rest upon a particular spot, as in the case of certain wounds requiring special agents in application with one part and not the whole.
When it is intended to apply a poultice, the necessary materials should first receive attention; the novice too often finds himself with a mass of hot bran or linseed and nothing to hand with which to apply it, or he has prepared too much or too little for the purpose.