Hysteria is the name given to an unstable state of the emotional and nervous system, producing various symptoms which may simulate other diseases. The condition is said to occur most commonly in young women, but men and children are also affected. It appears very commonly in families of a nervous, highly sensitive type, and heredity and education are two very important factors. The present system of mental and physical overstrain at school during the period of rapid development directly encourages the onset of hysteria in young girls; who are not particularly robust. Anything having an unfavourable influence upon the health, such as badly ventilated rooms, unwise diet, late hours, and excitement, encourages the appearance of hysteria. As a rule, some emotional shock, worry, or fright can be traced as the direct cause of an attack of hysteria. In mild cases the only symptoms may be that a girl is difficult to manage, subject to emotional outbursts, easily swayed and influenced, and displaying occasional hysterical attacks. Depressed appetite and dyspepsia are very common. There is difficulty in swallowing the food, due to a spasm, and the patient complains of a lump in the throat. The hysterical attack may take the form of a fit, when the patient throws herself about, clenches her fists, and falls in an apparent fit on a couch. It is not difficult to distinguish an hysterical attack from a genuine fit such as epilepsy. In hysteria the patient is never completely insensible. There is no regularity about these spasms, or convulsions, and no discoloration of the face. Firm treatment is necessary, and the application of cold water to the face. It is very important to give after treatment to prevent future hysterical outbursts. In severe hysterical disorders a great variety of symptoms may occur. There may be a paralysis of the muscles, pain and swelling of the joints, and often mental symptoms such as delusions. The disease is never fatal, but it renders the hysterical subject's life miserable, and is a distinct anxiety and perpetual worry to those around her. A great deal can be done by judicious treatment. Regular occupation which is not too severe is excellent. A lazy, frivolous life fosters an hysterical tendency. In bad cases isolation from sympathetic friends, combined with judicious diet and massage, may be necessary.
Indigestion. (See Dyspepsia and Gastritis and articles on pages 360 and 504.)
As considerable information is given under the above headings, it need only be said that " indigestion " is the name given by people to a feeling of discomfort in the stomach, with sickness, headache, depression and pain after taking food. The causes and treatment of this condition are fully given under the above headings. Indigestion is generally due to an affection of the lining membrane of the stomach, curable in most cases by careful attention to diet.
Infantile Paralysis is an ailment occurring during the first two or three years of child life, which is followed by loss of power in certain muscles. The child appears to be a little feverish and unwell and is noticed to have lost the power of one limb. Pain may be present, and the paralysis usually comes on during the first day. The limb afterwards becomes wasted. The paralysis generally improves, but complete recovery is rare. A certain number of de-formities are due to infantile paralysis.: The cause of the disease is not definitely known. Parents generally believe that it is due to the carelessness of the nurse in letting a child fall, but this is not at all likely. It has also been said that cold and chill, the irritation of teething, and fatigue, may cause it. It has occurred in epidemics. Whatever the cause, inflammation of the spinal cord is said to produce infantile paralysis.
Treatment is very important. In the early stage a purgative should be given, and the child kept in bed with the affected limbs wrapped in cotton-wool. The child should be carefully fed with good nourishing food, and, as soon as possible, taken out of doors into the fresh air. The mother can do a great deal by systematic rubbing and massage of the muscles with a little sweet oil, and this may require to be kept up for months or even for a year. In some cases electricity will do good, but proper massage by the mother is of greater value, as it can be done night and morning. It is a great mistake to leave a case of infantile paralysis without treatment before calling in the doctor, with the idea that the child will get well, as the muscles gradually waste away, and deformities from contraction are very apt to occur. With careful attention, improvement is bound to take place, and the child should afterwards be guarded against chill and errors of diet. Blisters and other counter-irritants are not of much good, and only irritate and unnecessarily pain the poor child. They should, at least, be applied by a doctor, and the same is true of electric treatment and medicinal remedies. After a few lessons, however, any intelligent mother can be taught how to use electricity, and massage and electric treatment combined, systematically pursued for a few months, may have extremely good results, even in severe cases of paralysis. Plenty of fresh air, good milk, and gentle exercise when the paralysis is in the upper part of the body, must be provided. Unless in the very severe cases, gradual restoration of power in the muscles can be anticipated, even although complete recovery is not likely.
Influenza is an infectious fever which occurs in epidemics often during the spring of the year. It has been known for hundreds of years, and it will not be stamped out until the public recognises the infectious nature of the disease, and realises that it requires isolation and after disinfection, as much as scarlet fever. It is an extremely dangerous disease because of the great prostration it causes, and the fact that it is liable to be followed by pneumonia, rheumatic fever, and heart failure. There are various types of influenza, the commonest being associated with the respiratory system, when the symptoms are similar to those of every feverish attack-headache, catarrh, etc. This form of influenza is liable to attack the lungs, and may go on to bronchitis or pneumonia.
The second variety affects the digestive organs chiefly, and sickness, diarrhoea and vomiting may be the most evident symptoms. Thirdly, nervous symptoms may be pre-eminent. Great depression, prolonged mental dullness, and even neurasthenia frequently follow this type of influenza.
Even the mild forms of influenza ought not to be regarded lightly. For one thing, the patient in going about exposes himself to chill, and is liable to other diseases such as pneumonia; and, secondly, he infects a great many other people who may take the disease very badly. Influenza is most dangerous when it attacks old: people and children; and they should be guarded against infection as much as possible. Whenever an epidemic of influenza is in progress -and nearly every year a wave of the disease seems to spread over the country-people ought to be isolated immediately the early symptoms of catarrh, with aching bones and prostration, make their appearance. A remarkable feature of the disease is that it strikes people down suddenly, which is the reason why it is called in France " la grippe." A man may be perfectly well one day, and unfit for work and as weak as a child, next morning. A woman may contract influenza within a few hours of an important social engagement, and is wise in her generation if. she gives in-at once. It is absolute folly to fight against the disease, and to refuse to go to bed, and put oneself in the hands of the family doctor. Of course, the typical influenza is all-compelling, as its effect is so depressing that the most unwilling is forced to yield. There is, however, what is called a mild influenza, and the victim to this, although feeling exceedingly ill, suffering from virulent catarrh and aching limbs, can go about with an effort of will and, at the same time, disseminate the microbes of influenza to all those unfortunates with whom he comes in contact.
The disease is due to a microbe which is found in the secretions, and which passes into the atmosphere, and probably mingles with dust. Inside omnibuses, railway trains, stuffy offices, and shops, the influenza bacilli are present in hundreds, exhaled by perhaps one individual member of the company suffering from the disease. To avoid influenza shun the inside of trams and omnibuses when there is an epidemic about, and ride outside whatever the weather may be like. Try to sit near an open window when in a railway carriage packed with people, since any one of them may be shedding influenza microbes around him. To be continued.