This section is from the book "Smith's Family Physician", by William Henry Smith. See also: Natural Physician's Healing Therapies: Proven Remedies that Medical Doctors Don't Know.
Convulsions in children may either occur as a consequence of other diseases, or they may come on suddenly, without any warning. The voluntary muscles of all parts of the body may be affected, or the spasms may be confined to one half the body, or to a single limb, or to the features. There may be only a single attack, or several in succession. During the fit, the face is sometimes pale, sometimes purplish or livid; the lips turn blue, the features appear to be swollen, the veins of the neck distended, the surface of the body more or less heated, and the pulse frequent and irregular. The abdomen is sometimes swollen, and occasionally involuntary evacuations take place. The fit may last for only a few moments, or, a succession of fits may continue for hours or days. Upon the subsidence of the fit the child is generally disposed to sleep. In some cases, however, the child is bright and lively immediately after the cessation of the spasms; in others the convulsions go off with vomiting. Occasionally, when the paroxysm is over, it is found that some serious lesion of the brain or spinal marrow has taken place, as shown by partial paralysis, squinting, and various mental disorders; and sometimes the fit is only the commencement of a series of attacks which eventuate in Epilepsy.
Convulsions sometimes end fatally, though not often, unless connected with other diseases; but they always demand prompt and careful attention.
After (loath from convulsions, there may be nothing discovered in the brain to account for the result; but', in the great majority of fatal cases, congestion, effusion, softening, tumours, or other signs of inflammation or organic affection of the brain or spinal marrow are found to exist.
Some children are much more liable to convulsions than others; those of a sensitive, nervous and irritable temperament being most so. Sometimes a child is supposed to inherit a predisposition from the mother; while, in other cases, all or nearly all the children of a family will be subject to convulsions, when neither of the parents has ever shown any tendency in that direction. Children thus predisposed, show themselves more impressible than others from slight causes, are very excitable, if not properly controlled are apt to be fretful or irascible, and sometimes exhibit great precocity. The predisposition to the disease may also be caused by impure air, unwholesome diet, and anything that has a tendency to lower the standard of health.
The immediate or exciting causes are very numerous. Strong and sudden emotion, as fear, anger, surprise, is a frequent cause; excessive artificial heat, exposure to cold, over exertion, and falls or other accidents, may bring on convulsions. One of the most frequent sources is the irritation of teething. Indigestible food is often the cause of convulsions; also acid in the stomach and bowels, and worms. Whatever causes spasms in the intestines may produce convulsions, for nothing more affects the nervous system of the infant than violent pain. One exciting cause is the quality of the milk of the mother or nurse. Many substances taken by the mother will act directly on the child; as, particular kinds of medicines, for instance.
As soon as possible after the fit comes on, put the child in a warm bath, up to the neck; (let the water be hot as the child can comfortably bear) at the same time rags wrung out in cold water may be applied over the head. The child should remain in the bath for ten or fifteen minutes, then be taken out, wiped dry, and wrapped in warm flannel. The bath may be repeated in a few hours, if necessary. If there is reason to suppose that the fit has been caused by any indigestible substance taken into the stomach, it would be advisable to remove the cause by giving the child a mild emetic of Ipecacuanha; (say one grain for each year of the child's age, repeated in ten or fifteen minutes, if it does not operate). After the stomach is cleared, a teaspoonful of the following mixture may be given three times a day (tor a child from nine to twelve months old, and in proportion for other ages):-
Carbonate of Magnesia,.................One dram.
Powdered Rhubarb,.......................Fifteen grains.
Tincture of Assafsetida,..................Half a dram.
Essence of Peppermint,..................One dram.
Syrup,........................................Half an ounce.
Water, sufficient to make four ounces. - Mix together.
Women, in many parts of the country, have a bad habit of suckling their children long ofter they ought to be weaned, and both mother and children suffer. Usually, the reason for this is, a notion they have that as long as they suckle there is no danger of their again becoming pregnant. Hence, they set at naught the divine command to "increase and multiply," and endeavor to limit the increase of the population. This is generally a mistaken idea. Nine months is the natural time during which the child should suck; after that time the milk of the mother is not proper food for the child, and cannot do it good, while the constant drain weakens the mother.