Hydrotherapy-Home Health Remedies
The knowledge and practice of healthful living habits will do much to prevent disease. It is best to eat the apple a day that keeps the doctor away. One of the main objectives of this volume is to acquaint the reader with the principles and practices of healthful living and thus to minimize the need for treatment of any kind. But illnesses and injuries do occur, and for minor ones, every householder should be equipped to give simple remedies.
Unfortunately, cabinets in many homes are stocked with medicines for headache, acid stomach, sleeplessness, etc.; and family members use these rather indiscriminately. Self-medication is encouraged by advertisements on television and radio, in the press, and in the drugstore. People fill themselves with chemicals that actually cause damage to the body.
In contrast to medication by drugs, there are simple treatments, which do not leave residuals in the body. These consist of the rational use of natural remedies such as water, light, controlled exercise, and rest. With these remedies, as with the use of drugs, self-treatment should be restricted to only minor symptoms, which do not warrant calling for medical help, to temporary emergency situations, or to treatment done under medical direction. The results of these treatments depend on the natural physiological response of the body. Any major treatment suggested here should be carried out with the approval of the patient’s physician.
Among the simple drugless methods of treating the disease the use of heat and cold ranks high in importance. Heat or cold may be easily applied with the use of that most common substance, water, in its three states-liquid, vapor (steam), and solid (ice). The use of water in treatment is called “hydrotherapy.” Only a few of the simplest treatments can be considered here. None of these require hospital equipment. While these treatments can be given in the home, careful observance of all details is necessary, for even these simple treatments wrongly applied may do harm.
Characteristic Effects of Heat and Cold
When one bathes his face with cold water or takes a quick dip or plunge into cold water after the first shock there comes a delightful feeling of invigoration, with quickened circulation and soon a glow of warmth in the skin. One result is greater energy for muscular and brain work, all normal body activities being stimulated. These changes that occur as the result of a brief application of cold water to the skin are spoken of as reaction.
People in vigorous health usually react well to cold water
The process of getting used to it may need to be gradual, but the health and vigor that result are well worth the time and effort necessary to acquire them. In treating the sick by the use of hydrotherapy, securing a reaction is important, for upon this depends on the success in stimulating the activity of the organs not working normally. It may be difficult to secure a good reaction. The patient’s circulation may be poor, or he may chill readily.
The cold water may have to be applied to only one part of his body at a time, after a hot application has first warmed the skin or while hot applications are being administered to other parts of his body; and the cold application may have to be made with energetic rubbing. In the case of chilliness, hot applications sufficient even to produce sweating must be used before a cold application so that the patient will react properly. This must not be forgotten, especially with such diseases as colds, influenza, and pneumonia.
Internal congestion may be relieved by hot applications over a fairly large skin area as the blood is drawn to the skin surface. This effect results from the attempt of the body to get rid of the heat thus applied. The cold application used for a comparatively long time on a relatively small area of skin will reduce swelling and congestion.
Thus heat alone may be used in treating deep congestion or inflammations, such as lung congestion and pleurisy. The ice bag alone may be used, as with an acute, severely inflamed breast; or, better still, the ice bag may be applied directly over the inflamed part, and hot applications at a distance, as with acute appendicitis-the ice bag over the appendix and hot applications to the legs and feet. When the head is hot and throbbing, a hot foot bath together with a cold cloth to the head helps greatly. When the lungs are congested, a hot foot bath and very hot fomentation over the congested part draw the blood to the surface and to the feet. An ice bag on the chest over the heart, in case of heart disease with a rapid pulse, slows the heartbeat and increases its force. Hot applications alternating with cold increase the number of red and white blood cells in active circulation, and these treatments, together with fresh air, sunshine, and nourishing food, are helpful in treating anemia. Alternate hot and cold applications are beneficial to local infections.
In giving treatments, seemingly small details are of great importance, and to disregard them may not only nullify the benefit to the patient but also actually harm him. Follow directions carefully. Remember that chilling the patient may cause harm; but, on the other hand, the cold water must be used cold, or little good will be accomplished. Hot applications must be hot, not lukewarm; a mere complaint that they are hot is not sufficient reason for cooling them before they are applied. Burning can e prevented, as will be explained later.
When applying heat, use great care to avoid damage to a part with poor blood vessels-a point particularly true of the feet. Direct heat application to a part acutely inflamed and swollen should be avoided-direct cold may be much better. “Heat” and “cold” must be defined. This is not easy since people differ in their toleration to heat and cold. The temperature sensation produced by water varies according to the condition of the skin, its previous temperature, the vigor of blood circulation, and the season of the year. Testing of temperatures, therefore, should be done with a thermometer as well as with the hand.
Equipment Needed for Home Hydrotherapy
Only simple appliances are needed for giving water treatments in the home. Substitutes may be used in emergencies, but it is much better to provide the things listed below:
- One set of six cloths, wool or half-wool, each at least 30 x 36 inches (75 x 90 cm.) in size. An old part-woolen bed blanket cut in four pieces makes four good cloths for fomentation.
- Two rough friction mitts, without fingers, made from rough toweling or washcloths.
- Two hot-water bottles, rubber preferred.
- One rubber ice bag.
- One bath thermometer
- Two elliptical foot tubs
- Washtub or wash boiler
- Pans, kettles, towels, sheets, and blankets such as are usually found in the home
- Two large, deep tin cans or buckets