What is in a name? Gastritis is inflammation or catarrh of the stomach. When the inflammation is of the small bowels, it is called enteritis, and when the inflammation is of the large bowels, it is called colonitis.
Names confuse and are not important. A gastritis or catarrh of the stomach in nursing children is caused by overfeeding to the point of creating irritation of the mucous membrane. Irritation of the stomach, once established, becomes the point of Toxemic Crisis. (See "Toxemia Explained")
When a baby becomes enervated (see chapter on "The Causes of Enervation" in "Toxemia Explained"), elimination is checked, causing Toxemia; and when the accumulation of toxin exceeds resistance, vicarious elimination takes place at any point of the mucous membrane made sensitive, as shown above, by indigestion or constipation.
A gastritis or catarrh of the stomach presents the following symptom-complex: Before fever and vomiting begin, for a week or longer, if the mother had been as observant as she should be, she would have seen white specks in the bowel movements. This means that the food is not being digested well because of overfeeding. This sign will vary from small white milk curds throughout the evacuation, to an amount of milk curd representing two-thirds or three-fourths of the evacuation. When the evacuation is gray and of the consistency of putty, it is made up largely of undigested milk curd. The odor is a mawkish sour, and, unless corrected, the trouble will end in acute catarrh of the stomach, or small intestines, or large intestines, or possibly all at the same time.
When the indigestion is confined to the stomach, the child is restless, irritable, and feverish. There is vomiting--at first of food, then of water and mucus, which may be slightly tinged with yellow. The crisis will end very quickly if food and water are withheld. There being thirst, mothers mistake it for hunger, and nourishment is given, which is a great mistake; for under such circumstances nourishment, or even water, will be rejected almost as soon as it is taken, causing more irritation, prolonging the sickness much beyond the limit of such derangements when feeding and water-drinking are stopped at the first indications of a sick stomach. Mothers should understand that nursing their babes when they are sick is not a kindness.
Thirst may be relieved by enemas of warm water, which should be given two or three times a day until the bowels are thoroughly cleared out. By that time the stomach crisis should be about gone, if food has been withheld, as should be done in all stomach and bowel derangements. Where water is rejected, it must not be given until vomiting ceases entirely.
A routine that should not be neglected in any and all sicknesses of babies or children of any age is keeping the feet and legs warm, and a wet pack to the stomach and bowels, keeping the pack warm with an electric pad or a hot-water bottle. Perfect quiet is necessary for a quick recovery.
Where the mucous membrane of the small and large bowels takes on vicarious elimination there will be a diarrhea. When mucus is mixed with the bowel movement, the small intestines are involved; where the mucus comes separate or coats the fecal matter, the large bowels are involved.
But why all the hair-splitting in so-called differential diagnosis? Suppose a clinical group has demonstrated to a mathematical point that an inflammatory area exists somewhere, anywhere, in the intestines--what is to be done about it?
Wherever located, it is nothing but an effect. This is true of the catarrhal inflammation of any part of the intestinal tract of a nursing baby. Special treatment is not to be compared to a treatment directed to removing the cause.
Treatment for any of the so-called diseases of the stomach and bowels: Give a fifteen-minute bath in a tub of water heated to 104 degrees F. Keep the child in bed, with heat to the feet and abdomen. If the bowels are constipated, use a warm-water enema before giving the bath. Positively no food. Give all the water the child desires to drink, if there is no nausea or vomiting. All excitement and noises must be avoided.
Aside from carrying out these instructions, let the child alone, except to change its position. Sick babies and children are not to be taken up on the lap. Overmuch handling is not good for well children, and certainly is injurious to the sick. Rest and quiet, except to rub gently with the open soft hand when the child is restless, and withholding food until all discomfort--all symptoms of sickness--are gone, is an ideal, as well as a scientific, treatment, and the quickest way to full recovery. The program for the first day is to be repeated day after day until all symptoms have been controlled. Then break the fast by allowing the child to nurse one minute, if it has been in the habit of nursing five or six minutes; or feed its accustomed food one-sixth of the usual amount every four hours. If all goes well the first day of feeding, give two-sixths the second and three-sixths the third day, gradually increasing to the toleration point. Whenever there is the slightest indication of crowded digestion--such as crossness, irritability, broken sleep, thirst, undigested food in the excrements--miss one or more feeds; then give a little less food or less excitement.
A child develops daily a given amount of nerve-energy. This nerve-energy may be used up by excitement. (See "The Causes of Enervation" in "Toxemia Explained") Anything that uses up nerve-energy weakens digestion. Then either the food must be cut down, or the cause of enervation must be discovered and corrected. The weather may be warm, yet the child's feet may be cold. No patient, young or old, will thrive if cold feet and hands are habitual.
The temperature of the house should be about the same day and night. The fresh-air fanaticism has slayed its thousands, while so-called bad air may have killed hundreds. Warm, clean houses and beds are much safer than open, airy, cold, dirty houses. Keep sick babies warm, clean, and comfortable.
Common-sense in the care of children is all that is necessary to keep them well.
In the days of old, when medical knights were bold in the use of drugs for the treatment of "diseases peculiar to babies," the mortality was great. Some preparations of calomel--particularly the gray powder--calomel and chalk--and some of the lighter preparations of opium and morphine, were in daily use.
The enervating influence of hot weather and improper care, and the poisoning from food improperly prepared, will often bring on gastric disturbances in children. If the child nurses the mother, her milk may be ruined as a food because of improper foods, work, and unreasonable marital demands. The milk of a mother subjected to such influences will surely cause a child to have stomach and bowel derangements, and, when the summer heat is intense, kill many by what is called cholera infantum (cholera in infants). The symptoms of this disease are intense restlessness, high fever, frequent vomitings, at first curdled milk, then water in which there may be specks of white resembling rice. The bowel movements are called rice-colored discharges, and are considered characteristic of cholera. The rice specks are small curds of milk.
The whole aspect of the child is one of intense suffering and great prostration. The vomiting and bowel movements are almost incessant. In a few cases the prostration comes on rapidly, and death ends the suffering in a few hours. Those who do not die within twenty-four hours will often settle into a state of bowel derangement named in text-books gastro-enteritis (inflammation of the stomach and small intestines) or muco enteritis (catarrhal inflammation of the small intestines).