(PHTHISIS).–There are many different conditions included under the term “Consumption of the Lungs.” When any affection of the lungs, involving consolidation or destruction of its tissue, is accompanied by wasting, fever, night-sweats, and loss of strength, it is fitly termed “consumption.” This may follow an ordinary inflammation of the lungs which does not clear up, it may follow (but this is rare) bronchitis, or it may arise from infection. But before a person can be infected with consumption there must be some predisposition already existing. Persons who have this predisposition should not nurse consumptive patients or they may become infected. Consumption, in the strict sense of the term, depends on the formation of what are called “tubercles” in the lung.
These are minute greyish bodies composed of degenerate tissue, and containing minute organisms, the tubercle bacilli, which are the carriers of the infection when the disease is conveyed in that way.
Diagnosis.–The cough, wasting, hectic fever, night-sweats, and blood-spitting, and unnatural hopefulness of the patient (spes phthisica) are sufficient to distinguish consumption from other lung diseases which might be mistaken for it. Chronic bronchitis is a disease that gets better and worse, and has not the steady downward progress of consumption. When one side of the chest only is affected there is a sinking in of the chest-wall, and tapping gives a dull sound instead of the natural resonant sound. On applying the ear, there is a generally much rattling and a resonating sound heard, which denotes that a cavity has formed in the lung. Chronic suppurative pleurisy may cause symptoms closely resembling phthisis, but in these cases there is the history of pleurisy to guide. The treatment of consumption is of course a matter for the medical man. There is much to be done in the way of prevention by proper attention to ventilation, food, and clothing. The best way to guard against consumption (as well as every other disease) is to keep the body well nourished and well clothed. Generally consumptives have a great dislike to fat, and fat is one of the necessary elements of their dietary, and should therefore be supplied in the most agreeable form. Cod-liver oil is one of the best fats, and it is also a good deal more–it is a powerful medicine. It should form a regular article of the dietary of children who are at all weak-chested or whose families are consumptive. In one sense consumption is not an hereditary disease; no child is ever born with consumption. But the tendency to consumption is very decidedly hereditary, and it is in those cases where one or both parents are consumptive that the greatest care is needed in the case of their children. When the disease has actually declared itself. one of the chief points to attend to is the diet;.
Another point which has lately come into great prominence is the recognition of the importance of fresh air. When possible, the patient should practically live in the open air, winter and summer, the sleeping room being so arranged that while the patient is kept warm the windows can all be so widely open that to all intents and purposes they sleep in the open air as well.
The best of nourishing diets, milk of good quality, and cream, as much as can be taken, must be given at the same time. If the strength of the patient can be kept up, the disease may be kept at bay, and eventually conquered.
Medicines.-(Every two or three hours.)
Fever, restlessness, red tongue, burning thirst, cough worse at night; great emaciation anxiety.
Hectic fever, night-sweats; diarrhoea.
Constant irritable cough, bloody expectoration. In commencing phthisis, with blood-stained expectoration.
Great sensitiveness to cold and all impressions; hectic, night-sweats, spasmodic cough, purulent expectoration.
A dose of this may be given once a week in chronic cases. Other remedies may be given as indicated in the interim.
Other medicines may be given indicated by the symptoms. See COUGH.