This section is from the book "A Text-Book Of Pharmacology, Therapeutics And Materia Medica", by T. Lauder Brunton. Also available from Amazon: A text-book of pharmacology, therapeutics and materia medica.
In these the body is exposed to steam instead of being immersed in hot water. The effect is much the same as that of the hot bath. The so-called Russian bath consists of a room filled with steam and provided with benches at various levels. The higher the level the greater is the heat, and usually, excepting on the lower benches, it is only possible to breathe with any comfort by holding a sponge dipped in cold water before the nose. From this room the bather goes to another where he is drenched with cold water by a douche, and is then quickly dried, and allowed to rest for some time before dressing. These baths are chiefly used in chronic rheumatism. They are liable to.the same objections as the hot bath, and to a still greater extent, for the inhalation of the hot steam produces greater difficulty of breathing, greater acceleration of the pulse, and greater tendency to syncope. Vapour baths, in which the body only is exposed to the action of the steam, and the head is left out are much better. They are usually applied either by means of a kind of box in which the body of the bather is enclosed while the head remains outside, or else by introducing steam under the bedclothes, which are supported by a kind of cradle, while the bedclothes are tucked tightly round the patient's neck to prevent the escape of the vapour. The latter plan is very useful in cases of dropsy and uraemia, as it induces a copious perspiration and does not exhaust the patient nearly so much as a hot bath. In cases of acute rheumatism a vapour bath of vinegar has been recommended.
1 Squire's Companion to the British Pharmacopoeia, 13th ed.
2 Naumann, Prager med. Jahrschr., 1863, i. p. 1, and 1867, i. p. 133; Heiden-hain, Pfluger's Archiv, Bd. iii. p. 504, and Bd. v. p. 77; Riegel, Pfluger's Archiv, Bd. iv. p. 350.
Calomel Fumigation. - This is used as a means of inducing the general action of mercury. The patient is seated naked on a wickerwork chair, underneath which is put a stand holding a shallow cup containing 20 to 30 grains of calomel. The calomel is volatilised by means of a spirit lamp, and a blanket or waterproof sheet being thrown round the patient so as completely to envelope himself, his chair, and the fumigating apparatus, the calomel fumes become condensed upon his skin in a fine state of division. It is absorbed with considerable rapidity, probably from becoming mixed with the sebaceous secretion from the skin, and the general action of mercury is quickly induced.