Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/275

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CORRESPONDENCE.

263

warm-weather disease, and "June being par excellence the asthma-month of the year," my experience goes to show that the worst months are those in which the vegetation is decaying—September, October, and November.

Now, as to the remedy which our author recommends—cold water. I would like to apply his own language on a previous page of his article to this, where he says: "Horseback-riding is an approved cure for epilepsy, but during the progress of the fit the application of the specific might lead to strange consequences. Yacht-sailing in a storm would be a bad way of curing sea-sickness, though it diminishes the danger of future attacks."

So it is with cold water as a cure for asthma. "A plunge-bath into a pond or tub of water" would indeed be a terrible remedy, for a person afflicted with a severe asthmatic spasm. No person of adult years in such a condition would think of such a remedy, for its consequences might be fatal. The shock of such treatment would infallibly increase the spasm and greatly intensify the suffering. The patient instinctively feels this, and knows that he can endure only the most soothing and gentle treatment. Therefore there is no danger to any adult asthmatic in reading such advice. But parents or unskilled medical men might be misled by this authoritative statement as to the cold-water remedy, and might subject children to it with a refinement of brutality which they happily would be ignorant of, but which Dr. Oswald certainly ought to know better than to recommend.

Imagine the poor sufferer, propped in a chair, livid and gasping for each imperfect breath, unable to speak, fearful of the slightest motion, a terrible strain pressing on heart, brain, and nerves, and think of a plunge cold bath in such a case. Yet our Doctor says "it is the most reliable remedy." Certainly he, for one, has not been an asthmatic.

If this criticism has only the effect of making parents or physicians hesitate before adopting such cruel remedies with children (there is no fear of adults permitting it), my main purpose in writing it will be fulfilled.

Our author also condemns, the use of the ordinary alleviations in asthmatic attacks. There is some truth, doubtless, in what he says on this subject. Still, they are of the greatest value. A traveler, for instance, who is free from asthma at home, stops at a close country inn, and contracts an attack of asthma. Then the remedies which are usually prescribed—perhaps stramonium, perhaps coffee, or perhaps niter paper fumes—relieve rapidly, and enable the traveler to proceed, whereas without them the spasm might last for days. These remedies act as helps, and the system has a surplus of strength sufficient to repair the slight damage caused by them. They help in the time of need. They act as brandy does to a frozen mountaineer; and, if a mistaken medical philosophy is going to deprive the suffering asthmatic of these invaluable aids and reliefs, it ought to be combated and exposed. As well say that surgical operations should be conducted without chloroform or ether, because the effect of those anaesthetics is harmful, as to say that the blessed relief which nature's herbs provide should not be used in case of an asthmatic emergency.

Whatever may be Dr. Oswald's merits as a physician, his paper on asthma, judged from the standpoint of a campaigner in that complaint, is not sufficiently correct or judicious to be a safe guide for the physician or the sufferer.

New York, September 15, 1883.

Messrs. Editors:

From the symptoms described by Mr. W. B. Crosby, I suspect that his affliction is not chronic asthma, but the dyspnœa which sometimes accompanies a latent tubercular diathesis, and which, in its spasmodic form, is generally aggravated by catarrh. Asthma, like hay-fever, is chiefly a warm-weather disease; still, if Mr. Crosby's trouble is not confined to the end of the year, I believe I can reconcile his experience with my observation on the secondary causes of the disorder, viz., that the symptoms often ascribed to the effect of a vegetable pollen "are probably a consequence of the relaxing influence of the first warm weather, for in midwinter a single warm day, following upon a protracted frost, may produce symptoms exactly resembling those of a hay-catarrh" ("Popular Science Monthly," p. 606). Your correspondent suspects a morbific agency in the decay of the autumnal vegetation, and, in America at least, the October frosts, when the falling leaves expose a vast area of woodland-soil, are almost yearly followed by a return of warm weather. I make no doubt but annual asthmas are often supplemented by Indian-summer attacks. What Mr. Crosby says about the causal connection of asthma and indigestion was mentioned in other words on p. 610 ("Popular Science Monthly"): "There is a curious correlation between asthma and close stools; they come and go together."

Mr. Crosby is probably not less correct in his statement that his asthmatic spasms "generally come on in the early mornings, the patient waking in a semi-nightmare to find the attack already begun," and his description does not materially differ from mine, that, "after rolling and tossing about till relieved by that form of sleep which the Germans call 'Ein-dämmern'—the patient