A Guide to Health/Part 2/Chapter 4

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A Guide to Health  (1921) 
Mohandas K. Gandhi, translated by A. Rama Iyer
Fever and its Cures
S. Ganesan pages 98-101

Chapter IV

FEVER AND ITS CURE

We now pass on to consider some particular diseases and the means of curing them. And first, fever.

We generally apply the term "fever" to a condition of heat in the body, but English doctors have distinguished many varieties of this disease, each with its own system of treatment. But, following the common practice and the principles elaborated in these chapters, we may say that all fevers can be cured in one and the same manner. I have tried this single treatment for all varieties from simple fever up to Bubonic Plague, with invariably satisfactory results. In 1904, there was a severe outbreak of plague among the Indians in South Africa. It was so severe that, out of 23 persons that were affected, as many as 21 died within the space of 24 hours; and of the remaining two, who were removed to the hospital, only one survived, and that one was the man to whom was applied the mud-poultice. We cannot, of course, conclude from this that it was the mud-poultice that saved him, but, in any case, it is undeniable that it did him no harm. They were both suffering from high fever brought on by inflammation of the lungs, and had been rendered unconscious. The man on whom was tried the mud-poultice was so bad that he was spitting blood, and I afterwards learnt from the doctor that he had been insufficiently fed on milk alone.

As most fevers are caused by disorders of the bowels, the very first thing to do is to starve the patient. It is a mere superstition that a weak man will get weaker by starving. As we have already seen, only that portion of our food is really useful which is assimilated into the blood, and the remainder only clogs the bowels. In fever the digestive organs are very weak, the tongue gets coated, and the lips are hard and dry. If any food is given to the patient in this condition, it will remain undigested and aid the fever. Starving the patient gives his digestive organs time to perform their work; hence the need to starve him for a day or two. At the same time, he should take at least two baths every day according the Kuhne's system. If he is too weak or ill to bathe, a mud-poultice should be applied to his abdomen. If the head aches or feels too hot, a poultice should also be applied to the head. The patient should, as far as possible, be placed in the open air, and should be well covered. At meal-time, he should be given the juice of lime, well filtered and mixed with cold or boiling water, and if possible, without any sugar. This has a very beneficial effect, and should alone be given if the patient's teeth can bear its sourness. Afterwards, he may be given a half or the whole of a plantain, well mixed with a spoon of olive oil, mixed with a spoon of lime juice. If he feels thirsty, he should be given water boiled and cooled, or the juice of lime.—never, unboiled water. His clothes should be as few as possible, and should be frequently changed. Even persons suffering from typhoid and the like diseases have been completely cured by this simple treatment, and are enjoying perfect health at present. A seeming cure may also be effected by quinine, but it really brings other diseases in its train. Even in malarial fever, in which quinine is supposed to be most effective I have rarely seen it bring permanent relief; on the other hand, I have actually seen several cases of malarial patients being permanently cured by the treatment described above.

Many people subsist on milk alone during fever, but my experience is that it really does harm in the initial stages, as it is hard to digest. If milk has to be given, it is best given in the form of "wheat-coffee",[1] or with a small quantity of rice-flour well boiled, in water; but in extreme forms of fever, it ought not to be given at all. In such a condition, the juice of lime may always be given with great success. As soon as the tongue gets clean, plantain may be included in the diet, and given in the form described above. If there be constipation, a hot-water enema with borax should be applied in preference to purgatives, after which a diet of olive oil will serve to keep the bowels free.