This section is from the book "The London Medical Dictionary", by Bartholomew Parr. Also available from Amazon: London Medical Dictionary.
In the less inflammatory kind the secretion of the mucus comes on first, or at least the previous fever is not very easily distinguished. The running from the nose is not watery, but viscid; though thin, and not very stimulating. This mucus, when it is secreted into the throat, produces a cough, by which it is thrown off. and sometimes a nausea; or affecting the lungs, there is a spitting with the cough. This expectoration of phlegm is most considerable after sleep; but there is no great sense of soreness or fulness. After some days inflammatory .symptoms come on, though not in a great degree, nor is the whole system often much affected. These symptoms are followed by an increased secretion of mucus, which, becoming viscid, if it was not so at the beginning, loses its stimulus. If the inflammation is great, the mucus discharged is yellowish, and sometimes tinged with blood; as this goes on the other symptoms abate, and at length the discharge by spitting grows whiter, then less in quantity. If the pa-3 B 2 tient is in a cold atmosphere, the cough is the more troublesome, the other symptoms are aggravated, and the disease is prolonged. If, through an imprudent exposure to the air, a relapse happens, the same course recurs. If the inflammation is very considerable, an angina, or a quinsy, may be produced; or if there is also the inflammatory diathesis, a pneumonia, or other disorders tending to hectic, may occur.
A catarrh consists in an inflammation of the membrane lining the nose, the fauces, and the lungs, called from Schneider, who described it, and who has left us six small, but not thin, quartos, on catarrhal inflammations of this and other mucous membranes. If it does not reach the bronchia:, it requires little care. Warmth, diluting mucilaginous liquors, slight sudorifics, and gentle laxatives, soon remove it. Should the inflamma-lion reach the bronchial glands, it may be considered as a slight peripneumony, and the remedies for that complaint may be less actively employed. Bleeding is seldom required: the bowels should be kept free, and the pediluvium, breathing the steams of warm water, with a slight opiate at night, are generally sufficient for the cure. An emetic, however, is sometimes, though seldom, necessary. The mucilaginous drinks are supposed to relieve one of the most troublesome attendant symptoms, the cough; nor need we impede the exertions of any old nurse who may strenuously recommend bran or lintseed tea, barley water, or a decoction of coltsfoot. Of course, the saline draughts must be loaded with spermaceti; but if both are omitted, the patient will not essentially suffer.
A catarrh, however, though in itself a slight disease, is often the parent of a very highly dangerous and generally fatal complaint, viz. consumption. The inflammation is communicated to a vomica, and its ulceration brings on hectic. In more advanced life it leads to humoral asthma, or hydrops pectoris. It should not therefore be neglected; but the most simple precautions, except when the disease is of peculiar severity, are only requisite.
Chronic catarrh sometimes occurs; but we see nothing to add on this subject that has not been anticipated under the article of humoral asthma, or that will not recur under peripneumonia notha. It is, however, often a gouty symptom; and sometimes attends infarctions of the liver, in those who have for a long time lived within the tropics.
Catarrhus epidemicus. If a common catarrh be so general in its attack as to excite the suspicion of its arising from some aerial influence, or from contagion, we may with .greater reason attribute to either cause the catarrh which is the subject of the present article. The former source was so impressive, that the Italian appellation of influenza has, in every language, distinguished it. The original country of this complaint is not known. Hippocrates seems to have been acquainted with it; and since medical records have been kept with accuracy, we find it occasionally appearing in different regions, and travelling, with an equal, uninterrupted pace, in different directions. The universality and the violence of the epidemic catarrh force the disease on our notice: the peculiarity of its symptoms attracts our attention; but we are compelled to read, ad fastidium usque, that the head ached at the extremity of Africa as at the North Cape, and that the cough was equally troublesome on the Danube and on the Thames, on the Ohio and the Rhine. The reason for this accumulation of minute uninteresting description it is not for us to fathom, but we cannot repress a recurrence of the disgust which has so often occasioned the honest anguish and the aching head.
In the chronology of the complaint we need not go further back than the twelfth century, the date of the first record collected by Dr. Cullen, Nosology, vol. ii. p. 173. From that time he has traced the disease, in the writings of different authors, with sufficient minuteness. With respect to its course, it seems most frequently to proceed from north to south, but it has been found also to travel from west to east. These, however, are points of curiosity only, and we need not enlarge on them.
The symptoms of the epidemic catarrh differ in some respects from those of the common cold, and were we here to be minute, we should contend that it forms a different species. The attack is remarkably sudden, and at first attended with considerable debility. A few minutes have often interposed between the feelings of high health and extreme weakness. The head, especially the forehead over the eyes, is particularly loaded; all exertion is painful; a tickling of the nose, with frequent and violent sneezing, often suddenly comes on. A load, rather than pain, in the chest, is very troublesome; cough is severe and dry, the tongue parched, thirst often intense. A sore throat is not a common symptom, yet a bright efflorescence is sometimes observed on it. Pulse is low and frequent, seldom hard; the skin constantly dry. In the progress of the complaint, the breast is sometimes more affected, and pleuritic pains are observed in the young and robust. As the skin becomes softer, the tickling acrid mucus from the nose becomes thicker, the head more free; but a considerable debility remains often for several months, and from this period the suppuration of latent tubercles has been often dated.