Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Is there a doctor in the house?

...because I would have gladly taken the aid of a physician, 19th century or otherwise, these past couple of days. I found myself overcome with what we delicately refer to as a "stomach virus" nowadays. Those of us who have experienced said virus know that it's anything but delicate! And while I treated myself with doses of a Gatorade/water mix, double-strength Mylanta, sleep, and plenty of whining, I wondered to myself, what would our 19th century friends have done?

While this entry is by no means exhaustive, take a look at what had to say (an excerpt from THE PRACTICALHOME PHYSICIAN AND ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MEDICINE):

Pain in the Stomach - Gastrodynia.

This is a symptom of various affections of the stomach, such as inflammation, ulcer, dyspepsia, and cancer; if it occurred only as an incident in these affections there would be no occasion for separate discussion.

There are, however, cases in which a severe pain in the stomach is a most prominent and distressing symptom, but in which no structural disease of the organ, such as ulcer or cancer, can be dis­ covered. In these cases the pains appear to be neuralgic, and the affection is indeed often called neuralgia of the stomach.

Symptoms.-The pain begins suddenly, oftentimes awaken­ ing the patient at night; it becomes at times agonizing, causing the patient to twist and groan from the severity of his suffering. There is sometimes decided tenderness over the stomach though in most cases this feature is absent, and the pain is indeed often somewhat relieved by pressure of the hand. There is sometimes a feeling of tightness or constriction around the body. In many cases violent vomiting occurs, though this is not a necessary symptom. In some instances, particularly in women, the pain recurs at intervals with especial severity, so that it is to be described as "bearing down" pain. The attack varies in duration from a few minutes to several hours, and leaves the patient sore and exhausted.

These attacks of neuralgia in the stomach rarely occur in indi­ viduals who enjoy robust health. The sufferers from this affection are usually in a state of general debility from over­work, either phys­ ical or mental, from excessive mental emotion and strain, or from neglect of sanitary regulations. In such individuals these attacks occur spontaneously, or may be induced by eating certain articles of food ; such individuals usually learn by experience to avoid par­ ticular articles of diet, which may be eaten by other people with impunity. Thus, in one instance, strawberries will be found to provoke such an attack if a patient be at all exhausted; while in another, even stewed oysters may have the same effect.

Treatment. - The treatment of such an attack comprises two measures: first, the relief of the pain; and second, the effort to avoid future attacks. The pain can of course be removed by the various agents at our command; if severe, so that the patient writhes in anguish, chloroform should be administered at once, a teaspoonful being poured upon a handkerchief and held near, not to the patient's nostrils. Meanwhile morphine should be given, a sixth of a grain, if the patient has not vomited; but if his stomach has been irritable, and rejects all medicines, an eighth of a grain of morphine may be administered hypodermically. A light mustard plaster applied over the stomach and a tablespoonful of whisky containing Jamaica ginger will often shorten the paroxysm of pain.

To avoid repetition of such paroxysms the effort must be made to Improve the patient's general health. In the majority of instances it will be found that the patient is already suffering from mental or physical exhaustion ; until this exhaustion is relieved by recreation, diet, and medicine, the attacks of neuralgia will be apt to recur. This disease appears to be confined to middle life, rarely occurring in childhood or in old age.

Hmmm. So according to this I should have had chloroform and morphine. I think I'll stick with Mylanta and whining!!

Bonus fact: Did you know that helicobacter pylori, the bacteria often responsible for ulcers was actually discovered in the 19th century? Neither did I...until I was researching some articles for this blog entry!

1 comment:

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