This section is from the book "Materia Medica And Therapeutics Inorganic Substances", by Charles D. F. Phillips. Also available from Amazon: Materia medica and therapeutics.
The "cold water dressing," with wet lint cut accurately to an ulcerated surface, or amply covering an inflamed part and overlapped by oiled silk or gutta-percha is one of the best, as it is the simplest, application for ordinary cases. In abscess, warm fomentations expedite the pointing and relieve tension, pain, and other symptoms. They are useful in encouraging bleeding from leech-bites, etc., and in assisting the separation of sloughs. In more severe wounds, if there be much heat and irritation, it is well to keep the dressing constantly moist, uncovered by waterproof, and the most complete method of doing this is by irrigation from a can of water over the bed- a small stream percolating the dressings, and draining into a basin on the floor. On the other hand, sometimes, the cold water treatment of wounds is too depressing, and leads to slowness of repair, or sloughing, and the hot water dressing or immersion has been recommended in such cases, especially by Professor Hamilton (New York) and some other American surgeons. If recent lacerated or incised wounds of unhealthy character are kept constantly under hot water (95° to 100° F.), there is a sense of comfort induced, not absolute relief from pain. On the second or third day, the parts adjacent are swollen, but not much reddened; the integument is sodden and white. On the fifth day, or later, the swelling is sometimes great, and the granulations covered with a white exudation, but the area of acute inflammation is much limited; erysipelas and gangrene are arrested or restrained; traumatic fever has seldom, and septicaemia has never occurred in any case in which submersion has been practised from the first day (New York Medical Record, May, 1874). Of course, simple incised wounds and healthy amputations do not need such an elaborate method of treatment.
Hot water is very useful in the treatment of recent sprains, the affected limb being immersed in it at the highest endurable temperature for about fifteen minutes (Medical Record, 1879).
For Burns, Cellulitis, Sloughing, Phagedoena, Sloughing and Phagedenic Chancres, immersion in the hot bath is extremely efficacious, relieving pain, limiting the disease, hastening separation of the sloughs, cleansing the wound, etc.