It is only within recent years that even the medical profession have come to know that rheumatism in its slightest forms is one of the most serious diseases of childhood. Ten years ago a child with fleeting rheumatic pains was said to be suffering from "growing pains," and very little attention was paid to the matter. There is no such thing as a "growing pain." Growth of bone and muscle is unconscious and painless. "Growing pains" are invariably rheumatic. "But why make a fuss about so slight a form of rheumatism?" the non-medical person very naturally inquires. "The child will grow out of it and be none the worse afterwards."
That is just the point. He may be none the worse, it is true, but we expose a child to too great a risk if we neglect any signs of rheumatism. In the first place, the child is allowed to go about as usual, exposed to damp and cold. In his rheumatic condition he runs every chance of contracting rheumatic fever. Secondly, the complications of rheumatism are very serious. Even the slighter forms are often attended by heart mischief and chorea, or St. Vitus dance is a possible result of untreated rheumatic affections.
What signs should put a mother on her guard and lead her to take special care? Rheumatism in childhood often begins with sore throat, and every case of sore throat in the nursery associated with pains in the joints require immediate attention Regard all growing pains with suspicion, if any rise of temperature, headache, or signs of illness appear send for a doctor at once, as professional care is necessary in all cases of acute rheumatism. A child with symptoms of acute rheumatism must be put to bed between blankets and given a milk diet until the doctor arrives.
How can we prevent rheumatism in the nursery? The rheumatic child who is subject to joint and muscle pains, who readily suffers from sore throat or nervous twitchings, must be guarded from damp and chill. Damp feet and damp clothes will only too readily bring on a rheumatic attack in any child with the rheumatic tendency, and every fresh attack may injure the heart. The diet is important. Simple, easily digested food is particularly necessary. Butcher's meat should be strictly limited, and plenty of milk provided. Such a child must wear woollen clothing next to the skin. If at any time he gets overheated and perspires much, or comes in " wet through," he should be well rubbed down and dressed in dry clothes. Any chilliness or fever must be treated by a hot bath, and by putting the child into a warm bed, and providing hot drinks of milk and gruel.
The subject of Rheumatism will be more fully dealt with in another part.