Infantile paralysis is technically called Acute Infectious Poliomyelitis, from polio (gray matter) and myelitis (inflammation of the spinal cord). Children subject to this disease are born of neurotic (nervous) parents. No 100-per cent child will develop it. It is declared to be contagious, but, as in the case of many other contagious diseases, the time will come when the profession will change its opinion, as it did on yellow fever. Twenty-five to thirty years ago quarantine for yellow fever was enforced by the shotgun. Today the best physicians do not believe in the contagiousness or infectiousness of yellow fever. There is only one way now to contract yellow fever, and that is by having it hypodermized into the individual by a mosquito. In the medical world there will have to be made a tremendous change concerning belief in contagion and infection in the next ten years. I nearly said the next twenty-five years; but things medical are moving, and old ideas concerning germs, infection, contagion, etc., are slowly but surely passing into oblivion.
In infantile paralysis there is no immunization except health; but neurotic families, as well as all other families, should feel the great importance of giving their children the best possible advantage by way of dietetic and hygienic education. Within another ten years the demand throughout the world will be so great for education on diet and hygiene that these subjects will have to be taught in the schools, instead of, as now, teaching bacteriology and immunization by way of vaccination, serums, tests, etc., and removing the throat sentries--the tonsils; all of which practice breaks down natural defenses.
In fact, there is but one immunization, and that is health. This being true, it will not take many years for intelligent people to repudiate socalled immunization, and demand education in the line of child-training. The standard will be health, not weight, measurements, or vaccines.
Prevention by way of building health for the disease known as infantile paralysis is the only immunity. Prevention of the disease is the only cure, for when a child develops infantile paralysis it is too late to reach it with vaccines, drugs, diet, or anything that might be supposed to be beneficial to a sick child. Often parents do not know when a child is sick with this disease until it is paralyzed. Many doctors are called into such cases, and find the paralysis already developed. The premonitory symptoms--or, rather, the early symptoms--are liable to pass unnoticed. A state of malaise, a slight fever, perhaps a fretfulness--just the impression that the child is not feeling well--will often be the warning for laymen; and perhaps these symptoms may not be sufficiently pronounced even to make any kind of a diagnosis possible. When a child's limbs are paralyzed, that means that the deadly work of the disease has been accomplished. There is no treatment that will benefit the child, except the kind of treatment that it should have had during its lifetime--namely, a correct dietary and hygiene.
The foregoing may be very discouraging to mothers, keep them apprehensive, and perhaps lead them to feel that every time the child is complaining it may develop infantile paralysis, especially if the disease is being advertised all over the country, as it has been during the past year. If every disease would treat the human family as infantile paralysis treats it, the people would be forced to "lock the door before the horse is stolen," or give children decent care and attention before they come down with sickness. The average carelessness in regard to the health of children is criminal. Parents have been educated to believe that all they need to do is to have their children vaccinated and immunized in various ways, and have the tonsils and adenoids removed, etc.; but, as hinted above, the time will come when the people will demand of their doctors to be taught how to feed children. The doctors who are making fun of Tilden and his proscription of bread and milk will not be able to teach parents how properly to care for their children, and such families will pass into the hands of physicians who will.
For the benefit of my readers, I will say that about all the treatment which is given to cases of infantile paralysis is superfluous and of no worth to the child, and the patients are extremely lucky if they are not damaged by much of the treatment.
There are very few parents who will be willing to fold their arms and do nothing for a paralyzed child. I would not advise them to do nothing, but I would advise them to learn how to feed and care for their children so as to build up as much resistance as possible in such cases. But most of the treatment that parents demand is in the line of attempting to restore strength and vigor to the paralyzed limb. To all such people I will say: Every dollar you spend in trying to restore a paralyzed limb is thrown away. Instead of paying out a great deal of money for years on these paralyzed cases, that amount of money should be put on interest, so, that, if a time comes when the child must be thrown on its own resources, it will have a little income. I have known families who kept themselves poor going from doctor to doctor, regular and irregular, often getting encouragement by being made to believe that a certain line of treatment would or might result in a cure, and if not, then a great betterment. But disappointments follow disappointments; for there is absolutely no hope of restoring a dead nerve.
When the contractual stage arrives, which it does in all cases, the patients may require a little mechanical help. Orthopedic surgeons can often prevent pronounced deformities, or give a little relief in cases where the deformities have already developed; but this is not a curative treatment in any sense of the word. It is purely mechanical, and given for the purpose of keeping the body from being painfully distorted. Sometimes the paralysis will affect only the foot, or possibly from the knee down or from the elbow down. When the contractural stage sets in, the foot will be drawn out of shape and drawn to such an awkward position that it interferes with the child's locomotion. Under such circumstances, the tendons which are drawing so intensely require a little surgery to help straighten them, and have an apparatus--splint or support--fitted on to keep the foot as straight as possible.
Parents who read this way well say: "Of what use is this article? You don't give any encouragement. You write in a pessimistic way. You do not believe in prevention or cure." I have written the above concerning prevention but the majority of people do not care to go through a prevention that means self-denial for themselves and their children--a correct body-building by living a correct life.
Children who belong to neurotic parents should be taught to sleep after the noon meal. They should be in bed early and get up late. When they show nervousness by inability to keep quiet, or show nervousness from their shouting, hysterical actions, and being overexcited in play, they should be sent to bed and rested for two or three days.
The school requirements of today tend to develop nervousness and build the neurotic temperament. Children are urged and pushed and crammed, and as a consequence they are worn out. Children belonging to the neurotic temperament should be watched. When the teacher finds children getting too nervous to do good work in school, or when they are showing the strain of school work, she should have a perfect right to notify the parents that such children should be kept at home and in bed for two or three days.
All children should be taught the correct food combinations. Those who want to know the best way to feed children should read this book carefully, our "The Practical Cook Book", "Toxemia Explained", and learn how to live for health.
As a last suggestion, when there is an epidemic reported in different parts of the country, parents with children who cannot be said to be 80 to 90 per cent well should keep them at home from school and make them spend at least half of every day in bed; and the other half should not be spent on the streets, at picture shows, or in exciting entertainments. Children will become excited in play; but after they have had a reasonable amount of childish pleasure it should be broken up. Do not wait until the child is worn out to take it away from play or school.
Children of neurotic parents should not be allowed to take any extra work when going to school. If they keep up with the school work, they are doing all they should.
See that these children are not eating anything and everything between meals--not even the school lunch; and, until the schools quit issuing starch and milk to children, see that your children do not eat anywhere except at home. Someone will ask if I do not believe in milk. I do, but not with bread. Fruit and bread in the morning, or milk and fruit; bread and a combination salad at noon; and all the milk they want in the evening, with cooked or raw. vegetables. This is a good general plan for feeding children. They get all the variety of food they need, and, if fed in that way, those with a white line around the nose and mouth will lose it. This line indicates irritation of the stomach, improper eating, improper food combinations, and eating between meals. It indicates gastric catarrh. Children with this sign should stay in bed until well.
No doubt there are people who believe that there is a certain percentage of cases of infantile paralysis that are cured. I am with this disease as I am with bronchial diphtheria: I have never seen a case of bronchial diphtheria get well, and I never expect to. I expect cases of catarrhal croup to get well, even when they appear worse--make a greater symptom show than diphtheritic croup. When anyone shows me a case of infantile paralysis that has recovered, I am going to show them a case that was mistaken for infantile paralysis. When we have functional paralysis, all should get well. Infantile paralysis is organic destruction, and is positively incurable.