The first condition of comfort and recovery to the patient is that the room be perfectly ventilated, either directly or from fresh air in an adjoining room. * A sunny exposure and an open fire, and in summer an open fireplace, are essential aids. After all these points are secured, care must be taken that the air be not vitiated by anything in the room. Growing plants are more healthful than cut flowers; unless the room be large and airy, the latter should not be allowed for any length of time, and even then should be removed as soon as their freshness is gone. If possible, avoid having a kerosene lamp in a sick-room. The odor is irritating to the mucous membrane, and in some conditions positively harmful. The wick should never be turned below the point of free combustion, either in the room of the sick or well. If you wish a dim light, place the lamp outside the door, or shade it by a screen. Never turn it down, as it will inevitably vitiate the atmosphere.
Avoid noise in replenishing the fire, by bringing the coal in a paper bag, and putting bag and all upon the fire. Keep all medicines and everything suggestive of a sick-room out of sight.
Arrange the bed so that the patient may be shielded from any draught. Neither sun nor lamp light should shine directly in the eves. Whenever it is possible, change the position of the bed, furniture, and pictures, that the eye may have something new and interesting to dwell upon, if such changes interest instead of distress the invalid. Two small beds, that the patient may find relief in change, are desirable; or, if possible, procure an invalid's bed, which admits of many changes of position and the airing and changing of the bed with no accompanying fatigue.
It is of the first importance that the bed linen and clothing of the patient should be kept fresh by frequent changes, and thoroughly dried and aired. Be careful to supply the needed warmth by light but not overabundant clothing. The patient should be bathed freely; avoid a chill by giving a sponge bath with alcohol and warm water, exposing only a part of the body at a time to the air, and rub till perfectly dry.
Wet a cotton-flannel bag, made with the nap side out, in cold water, wring it slightly, and tie it over the broom to use in sweeping. Be careful to wash it every time it is used. It is quite essential that the floor of a sick-room should be kept clean. Remove all dust with a damp cloth. The cleansing, drying, or airing of all objects should be done outside of the sick-room. Keep the room, the bed, the patient, and everything about yourself absolutely neat and clean.
In extreme sickness let no unnecessary word be spoken in a sick-room, and no needless, noisy, nor abrupt movements be made. Let the voice be calm and clear, neither loud nor whispering. In speaking to the patient do so in the way that requires the least effort in response, and never consult him about his food. Avoid all discussions of the disease, the medicine, and any exciting topic either with or before him. Do not excite the patient by needless conversation with the doctor outside of the sick-room. Never whisper, even when the patient is asleep or in delirium, because a whisper is more penetrating than a low full tone. During convalescence do not weary with conversation; let it always be bright and cheerful, and, as far as possible, of things outside the sick-room. Cultivate the power of talking to, rather than with, a sick person.
"In severe sickness a glass tube is useful for feeding drinks and gruels; and little white china boats with spouts are also good. A wooden tray with legs six or seven inches high, to stand upon the bed, is very convenient for serving meals."
Tie a square of coarse white flannel over a pitcher, leaving a cup-shaped depression of the flannel in the pitcher. Put broken ice in the flannel, and cover it tightly with a thicker flannel. The ice will keep all night, and the water may be poured off as wanted.
In applying hot bandages dip the flannel in boiling water, place it in the centre of a coarse towel, and twist and wring the ends of the towel; or place the flannels in a steamer over hot water until penetrated with the steam; they will then need no wringing.