This section is from the book "The Home Hand-Book of Domestic Hygiene and Rational Medicine. Volume 2.", by J. H. Kellogg, M.D.. Also available from Amazon: The Home Hand-Book of Domestic Hygiene and Rational Medicine, Volume 2.
This is one of the most common of all skin diseases. It occurs in a great variety of forms and at all ages, and is said to constitute one-half of all the cases of skin disease. It is not contagious, as many persons suppose. Its most common location is on the face and scalp, and about the thighs. When the eruption first begins, it appears as a number of red points, papules, or vesicles, which run together, and, after being scratched, exude moisture. It is accompanied by great itching. After a time, scabs are formed. In infancy, the scalp is most often affected, when the disease is termed scald-head, or milk-crust. The eruption is also sometimes called tooth-rash, in children, when it occurs during the teething period. When the eruption has a free liquid discharge, it is sometimes called moist or running tetter. A mild form of eczema sometimes attacks infants in hot weather, when it is termed heat eruption, red-gown, or red-gum. What is known as chafing, or intertrigo, is also a form of eczema. Eczema is frequently seen in children in the form of raw, red patches, with a moist surface, situated within the bend of the elbow or knees, or behind the ears. Washerwoman's, brick-layer's, grocer's and baker's itch are different forms of eczema in which the hands are affected, the cause being the various irritants to which the hands of these different classes of persons are exposed. Eczema of the legs is often observed in old people and persons of sedentary habits. An exceedingly aggravating form of the disease is frequently due to varicose veins, and sometimes gives rise to ulcers. In acute cases, the eruption generally presents a red surface, exuding moisture. In chronic cases, the skin is thickened and covered with dry, hard scales. It is almost always accompanied in all its stages and forms by fearful itching. It is sometimes difficult to detect, owing to the fact that it may resemble almost any other disease of the skin.
Eczema may be produced by anything which irritates the skin, poison dye-stuffs, colored underclothing, stockings, hat linings, arnica, poison ivy, friction of the skin, uncleanliness, especially in children whose diapers are not properly changed. Irritating soap, ex posure to heat and cold, and various other changes, are frequent causes of eczema. Dyspepsia, rheumatism, gout, scrofula, and any disease which greatly deteriorates the general health, may produce eczema. We have frequently seen very severe cases of eczema produced by wearing the moist abdominal bandage for too long a time.
The disease is often very chronic and frequently obstinate. It is, of course, necessary that all the known causes of the disease be first removed. When there are external irritants brought in connection with the skin by the daily occupation, either the patient must rest from labor or engage in some other business. It is very important to give attention to the general health, especially the improvement of the digestion, and the removal of gouty, rheumatic, or scrofulous conditions of the system. These conditions have been fully described elsewhere. In many cases a course of thorough eliminative treatment is required to get the blood in a good condition. The irritation or itching may often be relieved by bathing the parts in saleratus water, a drachm to the pint, by carbolic-acid ointment, ten drops to the ounce of vaseline, by bran tea, starch powder, and other soothing applications. A very excellent lotion for use in these cases is the following: Two drachms of carbonate of soda, one ounce glycerine, seven ounces of bran tea or slippery-elm water. In eczema of the head, it is often necessary to cut the hair close to the scalp. When thick scabs are formed, they may be removed after softening with vaseline or sweet oil, which should be freely applied at night and covered with a cloth held in place by a night-cap or bandage.
This is an eruption characterized by small pustules. It is really a variety of eczema. It frequently occurs about the mouth and nose in children. There is a contagious variety of this affection in which the pustules are small and flat, and spread rapidly over the body, generally beginning on the upper part of the body and extending downward.
The treatment is essentially the same as that recommended for eczema.