The best time for bathing is undoubtedly in the morning on getting out of bed or two or three hours after breakfast. Simple ablution or any form of cold bathing should be followed by rubbing and exercise. In a swimming or tub-bath it is best to remain for only a short time. Unless reaction comes on, and a warm glow is established, shortly after any of the varieties of bathing, cold bathing is producing more injury than good, and should therefore be discontinued and tepid water substituted in its place. By gradually decreasing its temperature, the system will soon become accustomed to cold water. In the winter season it is best to have the room slightly warmed, unless the ablution be quickly done, when it may be performed in the cold. Bathing, when followed by fullness of the head, should for the time, be suspended, or warm water substituted. As different forms of bathing are often advisable both in health and disease, and as we shall hereafter have frequent occasion to refer to water applications, we will enumerate some of them here.
These are often most refreshing and highly advantageous. If the proper materials be not at hand for constructing one, the contents of a watering-pot poured over the body from a distance of three or four feet will answer every purpose. It acts as a gentle shock upon the skin and nervous system, and stimulates them to the performance of their duty. When the shock is too great it can be taken tepid.
A tub, or better still, a bath prepared for the purpose, made of tin or wood, sufficiently large, that when a person is seated, the water shall come up around the hips to the navel, is all that is required. During the bath the upper as well as the lower part of the body should remain covered, while the abdomen is rubbed with a woolen cloth to increase the action of the skin. The temperature should generally be from fifty to sixty degrees, and the bath continued from five to twenty minutes. The best time for taking it is an hour before dinner or on going to bed. They are particularly serviceable in derangement of organs about the loins, of the hepatic viscera, and to relieve a tendency to congestion, in some of the upper parts of the body.
In this bath single drops of water are allowed to fall a distance of five or six feet. It should not be used on any vital part, and seldom continued more than fifteen or twenty minutes. It is fre-quently of great service in chronic and obstinate paralysis. Active friction should be made over the part between the drops.
In this bath a small stream of water, of a calibre of from half an inch to four or five inches, is permitted to fall from five to twenty feet, according to circumstances, upon the body. The stream should not be permitted to fall perpendicularly on the head, chest, region of liver, or spine. At first it would be better that it should fall so as to flow over the neck and spine, after which other parts of the body may be exposed to it, particularly the part affected. It should not be taken after a full meal, when fatigued, or in a state of perspiration. The length of time which it may be taken may be from one to ten minutes, and should be followed by active exercise. The douche is a powerful stimulant, but great caution should be exercised in its use. Very weak or nervous persons should avoid it.
The local application of cold water is of two kinds, viz. when we wish to produce a cooling effect, or warmth and sweating. In the former in inflammation of the brain, several thicknesses of cloth wrung out in ice-cold water should be applied to the head, the cloth frequently changed, so that the parts are kept constantly cool. If the cloths are allowed to become warm, the result is worse than if they had not been applied; a still better application, is a beef-bladder filled with pounded ice. When warmth or sweating is required as in derangement of the abdomen, stomach, throat, etc. a bandage or napkin, should be wrung out in cold water, applied upon the part diseased, ana covered with a dry bandage. The warmth of the body soon warms the wet bandage, and the heat being confined by the external dry bandage, the result is a most soothing and excellent form of sweating poultice. In referring to this sweating application of water in the following pages, we shall speak of it as "the wet bandage."
This application of water is often highly serviceable in febrile diseases. Two or three blankets are spread on a mattress, and over these is spread a linen sheet dipped in cold water and wrung out as dry as possible. The patient, divested of clothing, is now placed on the sheet, which is then carefully folded around as well as the blankets that had been spread on the mattress. Cold applications should be made to the head if there be a tendency of fullness there. In acute cases the applications should be changed according to the degree of heat, every quarter or half hour until the dry and hot skin becomes softer and cooler; after each application the body should be washed with cold or tepid water. In chronic cases the patient may remain in the sheet a much longer time. This application may either be made to the whole or part of the body.
The sulphur vapor-bath is sometimes indicated in cutaneous and rheumatic persons. When a regular vapor-bath cannot be had a contrivance can be fixed which will answer very well. An old chair can be taken with simply a narrow board across for the seat. Upon this let the patient be seated. A blanket may then be placed about the patient tight at the throat but permitted to fall loosely about the person to the floor. Underneath the chair may be placed a small tub of warm water and directly over this may be held a hot shovel upon which has been thrown some powdered sulphur. Now throw some hot stones into the water. The steam arising from the water mingling with that of the the heated sulphur, and all prevented from escaping by the blanket, gives a very good sulphur vapor-bath.
Cold, tepid and vapor-baths, either applied to the whole or part of the body, as well as the plunge and swimming baths, are all highly serviceable under certain circumstances and conditions of the system. Bathing apparatus should be found in every private dwelling, and particularly in public schools; a good bath to a restless child, who either cannot or will not confine his mind to his studies, will often soothe the system quicker, and invigorate the mind far better, than prosy lectures or any form of punishment.