Monday, 4 March 2013

Coping with Cholera

A cholera handbill from the City of London Board of Health, 1831


The existence of Spasmodic Cholera in London having been official announced, the Medical Officers attached to the City of London Board of Heath deem it important to make known to the inhabitants of the City that this disease is very frequently proceeded for some hours or even days by a looseness and disordered state of bowels. They therefore strongly recommend that all persons so affect, even though previously subject to such complaints, should, without delay, seek medical assistance; and they confidently believe that many lives will be saved by a strict and early attention to this advice. When the attack of Cholera is sudden, it is usually marked by pain at the pit of the stomach, repeated vomitting and purging, violent cramps, coldness of the hands and feet, contracted countenance, and eyes deeply sunk in their sockets.

Numerous other symptoms may be present, but these will be sufficient to mark the nature of the case; and then no time should be lost in having recourse to professional aid. In the mean time the patient should be placed in bed between hot blankets, and dry heat, by means of bottles of hot water wrapped in flannel, or bags of heated sand or salt, should be applied to the spine and limbs. Warm poultices, made with equal parts of flour of mustard and linseed meal or bread, should be laid over the stomach and belly, and the limbs should be unremittingly rubbed in a direction towards the body. In addition to these external applications, a dessert spoonful of flour of mustard, in half a pint of warm water, may be given, withh a view to excite full vomiting. The patient should be kept in a horizontal position, and his powers should be supported by moderate draughts of brandy and water, or spiced beef tea.

From the measures adopted in this city by the Board of Health and the various local Boards with which it is associated, medical assistance will be at all times so readily available, that the above directions are deemed sufficient to occupy the attention of private friends until such aid be obtained. Hospitals for the reception of chiolera patients are now in preparation, to which competent officers will be appointed; and if any patients who may be admitted should prefer being attended by their own medical advisers, these gentlemen will be at all times freely admitted.

To those who feel alarmed at residing in the neighbourhood of these establishments, the following quotation from a Treatise on Cholera, written by a distinguished Physician who visited Dantzic during its prevalence in that city, may serve to give confidence: "The example of Dantzic has already taught us that Hospitals may be established in the midst of other houses, without increasing the number of sick in their vicinity.

In conclusion, the public are reminded that though the treatment of this malady must be confided to medical care, it is to their own attention to sobriety, and cleanliness of person and habitation, that they must look for a probability of exemption from its attacks.


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