After scarlet fever, for instance, a chill will produce some kidney complications which may be more serious than the original disease. When the patient reaches the stage of leaving the sickroom, every care must be taken to have the other room kept at an even temperature, and to have the patient wrapped well up in an eiderdown or blanket if she has to walk any distance.
During convalescence the patient must be well nourished. Food has to be light and easily digested; and, as a rule, the doctor will prefer that small quantities should be given frequently, rather than three large meals in the day. After such an illness as typhoid fever the patient should not be allowed to have anything unless the doctor has expressly ordered it. The amateur nurse should take just as much trouble during convalescence to provide suitable, tempting meals as during the acute stage of the illness. If she gives unsuitable food or too much food in deference to the patient's appetite, the enfeebled digestion will soon show resentment, and the patient will feel tired, sick, depressed, and may even suffer from pain and discomfort.
The first thing the nurse must impress upon the patient is implicit obedience as regards the diet. More than one death has occurred in convalescence from typhoid as a result of the patient taking solid food contrary to medical orders. The appetite after acute disease is often very keen, but a relapse will most certainly occur if indiscretions in diet are allowed. As
Medical the patient is recovering from illness the food becomes an almost engrossing subject of interest, and it should be kept keen by judicious but not over feeding. Milk should be liberally used in convalescence. This can be given simply as warm milk or boiled with a little cocoa, or with an egg beaten up into it and a little wine added. A tumblerful of milk and a little bread-and-butter, with a scrambled egg, makes an excellent supper.
Then, again, the convalescent will require something in the middle of the morning, between breakfast and lunch, when some milk dish is better than beef-tea, unless bread-and-butter is taken as well. Beef-tea, however, is an excellent stimulant. Jelly is an invalid food which is of very little use, except for its cool, refreshing quality, and cannot be regarded as of any nourishing value unless made with milk or eggs.
Cut the meat small, and put with a pint of cold water into a covered iar. Place this in the oven or in a saucepan, and allow it to simmer. Stir it occasionally, and skim thoroughly now and again. After cooking, pass the liquid through a strainer with large holes, so that the nourishing sediment can pass through. It should now be allowed to stand until cold, so that the fat can be removed. It can be warmed tip ready for use, and flavoured.
If solid food is allowed, a little dry, crisp toast should be served with these broths.
Rest is essential to a patient convalescing from illness. Until completely well, ten hours' sleep at night should be the rule, and even if the patient does not sleep she is resting quietly and effectively. Often sleep can be encouraged after the midday meal, and an occasional rest during the day will help to forward recovery.
Let the convalescent patient have as much sun as possible. Keep the room well aired, gradually opening the windows a little more each day, whilst protecting the patient from draught. Weigh the patient regularly after a severe illness, as the weight is an excellent indication of progress. Do not allow reading or writing in artificial light.
Exercise should be very gradual. When the patient is allowed out of bed, choose a fine, sunny morning, and take a walk of only a few minutes' duration. Later, a morning and an afternoon walk may be allowed, and during this period a rest on a sofa or bed between the exercises will help to build up the strength. Warn the patient against contracting chill after a bath during convalescence. For this reason she should remain in a warm room for some time, and guard against wearing too few clothes.
Many women complain that after an illness they have lost their looks to some extent, but this might have been prevented by a little care in convalescence. The skin and hair certainly require nourishing after an illness, otherwise wrinkles and falling hair may result. A little cream should be rubbed into the skin every night to nourish the tissues, and the hair should be massaged with brillantine and regularly brushed. Massage of the scalp also tones the blood-vessels, and thus the hair-bulbs are better nourished.
The teeth may require some attention from the dentist after convalescence is complete, and the nurse must be careful, all through the illness, to give through a tube any medicines likely to discolour the teeth.
Passive exercises and massage will prevent round shoulders and that lack of muscular tone which is so apparent in many people after an illness.
The doctor may order an electric battery to be used to improve the vitality of the muscles. A simple and inexpensive one is usually quite sufficient. In this the patient holds the "handles," and the nurse, by means of a little handle, with her right hand turns on the electric current.
By attention to these apparently simple matters, the amateur nurse can do much to help the patient regain complete health, and be "as well as ever" after a most serious illness.
Massage during convalescence makes all the difference to the complexion afterwards, and is soothing and beneficial