There are many causes for spasms or convulsions, but the common cause is gastro-intestinal indigestion. The indigestion may have a physical or mental base. Almost invariably a child has been indulged in taking unfit food mixtures or in overeating. As soon as the bowels and stomach are cleared out, the cause is removed; and, unless the child is overfed immediately or very soon after, it may never have another convulsion.
The child may appear unhappy and indisposed, and look sick for a day or two. The face may be flushed and white around the mouth Perhaps it appears sick at the stomach. It may gag and make an effort at vomiting. The temperature may run very high. Some children are threatened with convulsions for several hours before a real spasm takes place; others may be taken suddenly. The child will scream, put the arms around the mother, and act frightened. After which it may quiet down for a minute; then have the same symptoms repeated. Many times, however, the child will have pain in the bowels, which are usually bloated with gas, and may be sick at the stomach, or even vomit. In the effort at vomiting too much blood is sent to the brain, and the convulsion ensues at once.
Few people need a description of this fearful disease, but for those who know nothing about it I will say that the child appears excited or frightened, and begins to jerk the arms and hands in rapid succession. The jerking is usually confined to one hand and one arm on one side of the body, the head jerking and twisting to the opposite side. The face is drawn and distorted; the eyes roll or stare; the pupils are dilated; and in a few seconds there will be a struggle for breath. The symptoms often give the impression that the child will choke; but the breath is shut off from the spasmodic contraction of the muscles of the throat and lungs. As the convulsions continue, the child's face becomes purple--bluish to black; the tissues about the face are puffed and engorged; and in a longer or shorter time the intervals between the jerkings increase in length, until relaxation begins. Then breathing or inhalation takes place, with a distressing rattling in the throat, which scares the mother, as she thinks the child is choking to death. It is not due to anything in the throat, except the mucus that has accumulated during the convulsion. The choking is really caused from the spasmodic closure of the air- passage. The jerking subsides, and relaxation comes slowly. Sometimes the tongue is bitten, causing the mucus to be bloody.
After relaxation starts, it is not very long before the child becomes quiet and falls into a heavy sleep that may last for an hour or for several hours. In severe cases, children will go through one of these convulsions, and hardly get relaxed before another convulsion starts, as severe as the previous one. The length of time varies from a minute to two or three minutes. I have seen many infants at the breast develop a short spasm every twenty minutes for twelve to twenty-four hours. Of course, such convulsions are very much lighter than the type described above.
The treatment for convulsions in children over one year of age, is simple enough. What we know as acute cases--cases that are brought on from indigestion in children that have been allowed to eat too heartily and improperly-- should have the bowels cleared out with enemas. Most of them have vomited sufficiently to remove all the decomposing food in the stomach. Then if they are given a fast of a day or two--long enough to get back to the normal--the eating may begin with very little fruit, cooked non-starchy vegetables or vegetable soup, and salad--orange juice mornings, ground salads noons, soup evenings. They should be kept on this plan of feeding at least two days before milk is given. Then a little milk may be given with the fruit for breakfast, and also with the vegetables and salad at noon, and either sweet milk or buttermilk, with prunes? for the evening meal. After four days, regular eating, without the frills that made them sick.
At the beginning of the second week, a little whole- wheat bread, eaten dry, may be given, followed with fruit for breakfast, toast followed with vegetables and salad at noon, and fruit with milk i. the evening. This is a balanced ration for children.