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 symptom may arise from restriction of respiration caused by pain, as in pleurisy and often in intercostal neuralgia, or it may arise from the disablement of a larger or smaller portion of the lungs, as in pneumonia, dropsy of the chest, chronic pleurisy and pneumothorax. Shortness of breath is also present as a marked symptom in consumption, and in congestion of the lungs arising from any cause, particularly from disease of the heart. Simple weakness, as in case of nervous debility, may give rise to shortness of breath.
The proper remedy is the removal of the cause. When this can be accomplished, the difficulty will speedily disappear; but, as in many cases the cause is one which cannot be remedied, the symptom, of course, remains, notwithstanding the application of the most varied remedies; and the most that can be done, is to mitigate the inconvenience occasioned by this often very distressing symptom. The aggravation of this symptom by exercise suggests that, when it is very urgent, the patient should be kept as quiet as possible. When it is due to the accumulation of gas in the stomach and bowels, as sometimes happens, speedy relief may be obtained by the evacuation of the bowels by a copious hot enema. Shortness of breath due to pain or congestion is generally relieved by hot fomentations. When due to disease of the heart, galvanic electricity applied to the sides of the neck sometimes gives very great relief. In dropsy of the chest, tapping or aspiration is sometimes a means of affording great comfort, at least, temporarily.
In cases of emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and heart disease, in which the lungs are unable to perform a sufficient amount of work to purify the blood, as indicated by lividness of the face and lips, together with other symptoms of insufficient respiration, great relief may often be afforded by the employment of artificial respiration. What is known as Sylvester's method, elsewhere described, may be employed, or better, the following method suggested by Dobell, an eminent English physician: Place the patient in a chair, let a strong attendant stand behind him upon a stool, elevated just sufficiently to give him command over the shoulders of the patient without stooping forward too much. Let the attendant place his hands in front of the patient's shoulders, taking hold in the axilla beneath them. Now let him lift the patient steadily upward sufficiently to raise his weight off the chair upon which he is sitting. After retaining this position for a few seconds, he should be let down slowly. After resting a few seconds, the operation should bo repeated. The patient should be instructed to respire with the motions of the attendant. By the repetition of this exercise for half an hour, the patient's condition will, in many cases, be very much improved, the livid appearance of the face and lips disappearing, and not infrequently, the fatal moment may be long postponed. By a continuance of these measures at frequent intervals, for a few days, it may be deferred for weeks and often for months and years. It is quite probable that many patients die from carbonic acid poisoning who might be saved by the adoption of these measures, if they were thoroughly applied.