Petit Mal is a slight epilepsy, characterized by momentary loss of consciousness. Sometimes the child will be standing on its feet, and drop heavily to the floor as if sitting down. The jolt is so severe that it will cry. The loss of consciousness is just of long enough duration to cause the child to lose control of its muscles. As soon as the wave has passed, the child will sit down suddenly. It may look up and stare. It may be looking at a picture-book with other children, and have a startled look that lasts momentarily. It means a loss of consciousness. The child may ask for a drink, and, as it takes the cup into its hand, if a spasm develops, the cup may drop out of its hand. These seizures may come frequently--two or three to a dozen times a day, often as high as twenty. It has been my experience that they have a tendency to grow worse, unless controlled. By "growing worse" I mean that the unconsciousness lasts longer. There will be a twitching of the muscles, showing that the disease is about to change from the Petit Mal type to Grand Mal, or real convulsions, or the convulsive type.
The cause of all cases that have ever come under my observation is indigestion; and this is brought on from imprudence in feeding the child. Some children are very nervous, play too hard, use up their nerve-energy, and become enervated. This prevents perfect digestion. Then, if fed wrongfully, irritation of the stomach and bowels will be set up, causing reflex irritation of the brain, or cerebro-spinal centers.
Keep the child in bed for a month or longer, if necessary. Fast as long as possible, and then feed very lightly. No starch or meat is to be given. Use fruit, vegetables, and milk. Have milk in the morning, following a little fruit, such as prunes, apple-sauce, baked apple, or any of the fresh, raw fruits. At noon, have a glass of milk. In the evening feed a cup of vegetable soup, made according to the "Cook Book."
The child should be bathed with tepid water once a day, and this is to be followed with dry towel-rubbing.
The bowels should be looked after. If necessary, a small enema should be given each night and morning until the bowels are cleared out. Then, until the child is very much better, and able to be up and eat more, use the enema every other night.
When the convulsions cease, feed according to the instructions in keeping with the child's age.