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.
Children, from two to eight years old, are most liable to this complaint. Sometimes it is occasioned by improper diet, sometimes by exposure to heat, cold, or damp. It generally comes on with a little shivering, followed by heat and feverishness, frequently a little headache, and coldness of the feet and legs. The child has probably been playing out of doors when first attacked, and thus nothing is noticed to be the matter till the fever has become established. When first noticed, the child will be found to have a hot skin, a quick pulse, a dry and furred tongue, quick breathing, no appetite, considerable thirst, sometimes retching or vomiting, and the bowels are generally confined. If able to make himself understood, the child frequently complains of pain in the head, but if otherwise, is restless and uneasy, or, if quiet, is heavy and disposed to sleep. During sleep, the child will frequently start and twitch the muscles, and occasionally will be convulsed. After a few hours, the violence of the symptoms abates; and on the following morning the child is found with a cooler skin, a slower pulse, a moister mouth, and a brighter and more lively expression. As the day advances, the fever again rises with similar symptoms as at first, and thus the disease continues till its close. In some cases, however, the morning improvement is much less decided than in others, and occasionally it is difficult to decide at what period of the twenty-four hours the feverish symptoms are most violent. The bowels are generally confined, and the motions have usually an unhealthy appearance and smell, being clay-coloured, dark, or greenish, with an offensive smell. The urine is generally scanty, and the breath frequently sour. The child is often light-headed, but more frequently there is drowsiness, sometimes even amounting to stupor. Sometimes the child picks its lips and nostrils, and also picks at the bed-clothes.
The disease runs on from five to ten days, but is occasionally protracted for one or even two weeks, but in these cases, the complaint is frequently accompanied with inflammation within the abdomen. Where the complaint is simply fever, without any complication from inflammation, there is no danger, and the child always-with proper treatment-recovers; the attacks of fever gradually become shorter and milder; purgative medicines operate more readily, and bring away more healthy discharges; the urine becomes more plentiful; the heat of the skin and the frequency of the pulse diminish; the tongue becomes cleaner; the appetite returns, and the health is gradually restored. When, however, the bowels become swollen and tender upon pressure, accompanied with diarrhoea, and less decided abatements of fever, there is reason to fear danger from inflammation; and proper medical advice should be at once obtained. Some authors attribute this complaint to worms, and there is no doubt that they are sometimes the cause of it.
In ordinary cases, if the symptoms are mild, a few doses of opening medicine, (a little Magnesia and Rhubarb, or Magnesia and Senna Tea) with attention to diet, confining the child to oatmeal gruel, sago, tapioca, arrow root, and ground rice, and keeping the child in bed, will generally effect a cure; but when the symptoms are more severe, with much fever and restlessness, with confined bowels, it is better to give a dose of Calomel (from one to two years old, a dose of from one to two grains, and from three to five years old, a dose of three grains) in a little jelly, honey, or sugar, followed about six or eight hours afterwards, by a small dose of Rhubarb and Magnesia, or Magnesia and Senna. The diet prescribed above may be adopted and continued, with occasional doses of opening medicine, if the bowels are at all confined. Considerable benefit will be found from small doses of antimonial wine; say for a child of two years old, five drops of Antimonial Wine three times a day in a little gruel. It is not intended to produce sickness; therefore if that should be the result, the dose must be diminished. The child should be kept in bed, and an occasional warm bath will be of benefit. Sourness at the stomach will be best counteracted by a little Magnesia, Should the abdomen be tender on pressure, frequent fomentation, with soft flannel wrung out in hot water, as hot as can be comfortably borne, will give relief. The nurse, however, must recollect that the skin of a young child is tender, and will not bear the same degree of heat as the skin of a grown person.
As the child improves, chicken broth, veal broth, mutton broth, and beef tea may be given. Milk, when good, is a good diet, combined with oatmeal porridge or good brown bread, but when there is acidity in the stomach, milk is apt to disagree, and to become curdled. Care should be taken to give nothing that can irritate the stomach and bowels. When the child is thirsty, cold water may be given frequently, and it is generally refreshing to the patient.
When the patient is recovering, and beginning to get an appetite, care must be taken not to let it have such food as would be likely to lie heavy on the stomach; nothing in fact that is difficult of digestion.