Diarrhcea consists in frequent and copious discharges of feculent matter by stool, accompanied by griping, and often at first with a slight degree of vomiting, but unattended either by inflammation, fever or contagion. It may be distinguished from Dysentery by the absence of blood and mucus in the discharges, and from Cholera Morbus by the discharges not being very bilious, and also by there being no vomiting of bile.

Diarrhoea may be caused by the application of cold to the surface of the body, so as to check the perspiration, and thereby drive the blood from the outside to the interior parts of the body; by chronic diseases of the liver, &c; by substances taken into the stomach and producing fermentation, as acid fruits, and also oily and putrid substances, and purgative medicines; also matters generated in the body, and thrown into the intestines, as acrid bile, purulent matter, water in dropsy, worms, etc. Diarrhoea is also apt to follow costiveness, as a result of the accumulation of faeces in the bowels till they become offensive and irritating to the gut.

In Diarrhoea each motion is usually preceded by a murmuring noise and flatulence in the intestines, caused by an accumulation of wind or gas, together with a sense of weight and uneasiness in the lower part of the belly, which cease on the discharge taking place. The appearance of the stools is various, generally they are thinner than natural; sometimes they are slimy, and sometimes they are green when first discharged; sometimes they are evacuated of a yellow colour, but become green on exposure to the air; and sometimes they are of a dark brown colour, and very fetid. Sometimes the food swallowed is discharged in an unaltered state, and this is particularly the case with children. As the disease advances the stomach becomes affected, and sickness, nausea and vomiting sometimes prevail, the countenance turns pale, and the skin is dry and rigid. If it continues for any length of time, universal emaciation and dropsy of the lower extremities ensue, together with a great loss of strength.

Diarrhoea is sometimes the result of ulceration of some portions of the intestines; and a peculiar species of chronic Diarrhoea is occasionally met with among elderly persons, particularly those who have lived any length of time in a warm climate, and suffered from a diseased state of the liver or spleen. It consists in a copious evacuation of matter resembling a mixture of lime with water, sometimes being of the consistence of porridge, and very frothy on the surface. The disorder occasions great debility, is very liable to occur whenever anything harrasses the mind,and is very little under the control of medicine, and ultimately wears out the constitution.

The quantity of matter evacuated in Diarrhoea is sometimes extraordinary, leading the patient to wonder where it all comes from, exceeding as it does, by many times, the eatables and drinkables consumed by him.

Treatment

In the generality of cases it is not advisable to stop, the Diarrhoea suddenly, as, supposing the attack is caused by noxious matters lodged in the bowels, if we suddenly stop the purging by astringents, and lock up the offensive substance, we are only laying the foundation for a fresh attack as soon as the effect of the medicine has gone off. It is, therefore, best for the patient to assist in getting rid of the offensive matters in the first place by drinking plentifully of Oatmeal gruel, Barley water, thin Starch, and Beef Tea or Mutton Broth, till the stomach and bowels appear well cleaned out. He may then take the following mixture:-

Prepared Chalk................................Two Drams;

Powdered Gum Arabic......................Two Drams.

Laudanum ......................................One Dram.

Cinnamon Water..............................Half a Pint.

Take two tablespoonfuls every two or three hours till the purging abates, or take a dose after each motion.

If, after taking one bottle, the mixture does not seem sufficiently powerful, the following may be added to the next bottle:-

Tincture of Catechu.....................Half an Ounce.

If the bowels still appear too much relaxed, he may add the following, which is a powerful astringent, to the next bottle of the mixture:-

Tannic Acid....................................Half a Dram.

When the purging begins to abate, the following mixture may be substituted for the preceding:-

Carbonate of Magnesia...................One Dram.

Powdered Rhubarb........................Halfa Dram.

Tincture of Catechu......................Half an Ounce.

Cinnamon Water...........................Halfa Pint.

A tablespoonful may be taken three times a day.

Should the Diarrhoea have been long-continued, and have produced much debility, it would be advisable for the patient to take a mild Tonic for some little time, till the health is completely restored. The following will be found to have the desired effect:-

Tincture of Gentian............................One Ounce.

Tincture of Orange Peel......................One Ounce.

Tincture of Catechu............................One Ounce.

Take a teaspoonful three times a day (between meals) in a glass of water.

Strawberry leaves are a very useful astringent in Diarrhoea; they may be chewed several times a day.

After recovering from the attack, the patient should be particularly careful of his diet; living principally on mutton and other easily digested food, avoiding pickles and vinegar, using fermented liquors but moderately; taking coffee for breakfast, and tea but once a day. Boiled rice will be found useful.

When Diarrhoea is caused by the striking in of Gout, we must employ warm fomentations to the Gouty limbs.

When Diarrhoea attacks a pregnant woman, it should be stopped as quickly as possible, or it may lead to miscarriage.

Persons who are liable to attacks of Diarrhoea should live carefully, and clothe warmly; always wearing flannel next the skin.