Acute Disease


   Acute is a Latin word equivalent to our word sharp. An acute disease is a short, sharp illness. The symptoms are commonly severe and there is fever, but the disease does not last long. "As a general thing," so it was said in days gone by, "the suddenness of the attack, the loss of appetite, the prostration of the nervous force and the strength, proclaim the unwelcome presence of 'a fever.'" Examples of acute disease are pneumonia, typhoid fever, meningitis, smallpox, measles, scarlet fever, etc.

   Chronic comes from chronos, meaning time. A chronic disease is a lasting one, often persisting for the remainder of the life of the individual. Although there are often exacerbations of acute symptoms in chronic disease, on the whole the symptoms are less severe than in acute disease and there is little or no fever; indeed, there may be subnormal temperature. Examples of chronic disease are chronic rhinitis, gastric ulcer, chronic arthritis, most nervous diseases, etc.

   During the last century acute disease was very common, epidemics being the rule. Almost every year epidemics of diphtheria or smallpox or measles or scarlet fever or pneumonia or, typhoid fever, etc., developed. Hygiene and sanitation were largely neglected and Hygienists made slow progress in promoting Hygienic and sanitary science among the people. It is now everywhere admitted that progress in Hygiene and sanitation and not medicine was responsible for the disappearance of these epidemics.

   The death rate in acute disease, at all ages of life under medical care, was very high, in some instances, in diphtheria, being as high as 100 percent. In typhus, typhoid and yellow fever the death rate was very high. It will be interesting and instructive to contrast Hygienic care with medical care of the time and compare results.

   The idea prevailed then as now that the patient with high fever must be treated in a way to reduce the fever. The practice is as unscientific as it is fatal. Under the antipyretic treatment, so freely employed by physicians at that time, untold thousands were retired to that refuge from physicians which is located several feet below the surface of the earth. Hygienists, recognizing the remedial character of fever, did not seek to reduce temperature, as they did not seek to suppress other parts of the remedial process. As a consequence, they enjoyed a much more successful practice.

   Thomas Low Nichols, M.D., said that the Hygienic practitioner is in a different position from the practitioners of medicine--"If he has a case of fever, he would be ashamed to take more than a week in curing it." Kittredge said that as a common thing, he scarcely had to visit a child suffering with the common diseases of childhood more than two or three times before the patient was sufficiently recovered that the family could take charge and complete the work. He said that medical men know "very well that even a very large practice would soon run out if they should stop drugging it," and that "they have only to give one dose of medicine (drug) to ensure at least the necessity for a dozen more."

   The great certainty with which acute sufferers recover health under Hygienic care induced some early graduates of the Hygeo-Therapeutic College to offer to care for such patients, if within 20 miles of their residences and if called before any drugging was done, with the understanding that if the patient did not recover within a reasonable length of time, they would make no charges for their services. This not only served to reassure people who knew little or nothing of Hygiene, but it demonstrated that Hygiene could be as effectively carried out in the home as in an institution.

   This should answer the question often asked: will Hygiene meet the needs in cases of acute disease? It is no uncommon thing to have one whose life has been saved by Hygiene, but who suffered with chronic disease, to send a child or a wife or husband to the hospital with an acute disease, saying: "I sent for a physician who gives medicine for I do not suppose that Hygiene would reach such cases."

   Hygiene will not reach anything, except those cases in which all the many and varied forms of treating and curing disease have been used and failed. Hygiene is valuable and helpful only in those cases that have been declared to be incurable. Hygienists are the kind of idiots that abandon all schemes that offer help to the sufferers except one that will work on the broken-down and hopeless. If it offers help to the young and recoverable, Hygienists want nothing to do with it. If it is helpful to those who have squandered their inheritance on all manners of scientific cures, but is useless in those who are physiologically solvent, Hygienists can use it.

   In his editorial for February 1860, Trall said: "In no class of diseases are the incomparable safety and superiority of hygienic medication more strikingly manifested than in the eruptive fevers--smallpox, measles, scarlet fever, erysipelas, etc." The "old fashioned" practice of keeping smallpox patients in close, heated rooms, denying them water to drink and drugging them to death was the real cause of the high death rate. Let us always bear in mind the fact that the high death rate in smallpox was due to barbarous treatment. Physicians knew nothing better than heroic drugging and keeping the patient shut up in a foul atmosphere, denying him even the simplest gratification of his senses, literally letting him die for lack of a single drink of cool water. In those dark ages death was the most common result of medical treatment.

   In 1859 E. M. Snow, M.D., Health Superintendent of Providence, R.I., communicated to the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal an account of 11 cases of smallpox which just shortly before the communication was made had all recovered in Providence, all of them cared for without drugs and not one of them dying. In this communication Snow said: "The treatment was expectant to the fullest extent. Not one of the eleven cases took a particle of medicine of any description, from first to last. My efforts were wholly directed to measures to prevent contagion, the chief of which were cleanliness and ventilation. The result was that all recovered--none died. Every case went forward to a favorable termination without a single unfavorable symptom."

   Well did Trall exclaim that this is quite equal to the best of Hygienic care. "We never claimed for our system, when directed by the most skillful and experienced hands, any better than a cure of all the cases." He asked, if this "expectant" treatment or no-medicine plan "is going to cure all cases of so formidable a disease as smallpox, will not the same principle apply to some other diseases? And if to some, why not to all?"

   I think it significant that no complications or "unfavorable symptoms" developed in these undrugged cases, although these were the rule under the drugging plan. It is true that physicians have tried this same experiment a thousand times, of treating disease with and without drugs, and in every instance the results have been in favor of the no-drugging plan; yet, as Trall said: "Prepossessed with the idea that disease would not be, could not be, or should not be cured without medicine, they have always seemed to regard the results of their experiments as entirely miraculous. They have taken the exception for the rule, and the rule for the exception."

   Dr. Walter said of smallpox (the discreet variety) that it "is a violent disease, always accompanied with high fever; but if the patient is properly cared for, it is not dangerous." Of confluent smallpox, he said it "has low fever, and under drug treatment is usually fatal."

   There is not the slightest room to doubt that the frightful mortality from the "Black Death," "yellow fever," "sinking typhus," "congestive chills," smallpox, typhoid fever and pneumonia was due almost wholly to the poisoning, stimulating, narcotizing, bleeding, blistering, cauterizing, leeching, mercurializing, purging and antimonial practices of the times. The more heroic the drugging in all epidemics, the higher has been the death rate and the more malignant the disease. Even measles and scarlet fever were malignant under such treatment.

   Kittredge lamented that "many fevers unfortunately are not suffered to arrive at a natural termination,--but are interfered with under the plea of helping nature, and brought to a sudden and fatal crisis in a very few days from their commencement.

   "If, however, they are thwarted by medicines, they will regularly put on a critical action."

   It was during the war for Southern independence that typhus and typhoid were differentiated from each other. Prior to that time the two terms were usedi interchangeably and the "two diseases" were considered one. In our quotations from the past we have no means of determining what portion of the cases were typhoid and what were typhus. Trall thought that yellow fever was a variety of typhus and said that while in New York he had not had the opportunity to treat a case. He had every confidence that under the plan of care he pursued with "ship fever," "nervous typhus," "putrid typhus," etc., the worst forms of which he had treated most satisfactorily, nine out of ten cases of yellow fever would recover. "It is at least certain," he said, "that drugs do more harm than good."

   His care of typhus and typhoid was simple--cold cloths to the head, heat to the feet if these were cold, sponging of the whole body with water of a comfortable temperature, moderate drinks of cold water when demanded by thirst, the wet bandage, fasting or but small amounts of thin gruel, enemas of tepid water if the bowels were sluggish. Discussing the high mortality in typhoid, Trall said that it was unnecessary and that "we do not believe these patients die of typhoid fever, but of drug medication." He was speaking of the mortality among Northern troops in the war and added that, "we notice in one of the papers that double rations of quinine and whiskey are now allowed the soldiers. Has not this extra allowance something to do with this extra mortality?"

   Kittredge said: "I have known persons with well-marked typhoid fever out in a week, and I have known them for three months flat on their backs, looking up but with apparently little hope even then." Writing in the Journal, June 1851, E. B. Thomas, M.D., said: "I have seen many cases of the severe forms of typhus recover without any other form of treatment than attention to cleanliness, air and diet; and that, too, without the dreadful sequelae so justly dreaded. Again, I have seen cases of simple bilious fever treated by salivating with some mercurial preparation, and presto! the bilious was typhoid, and the patient lingered on a few days or weeks, it may be, of indescribable misery, and died." He thought that such experiences showed that drugs are not as essential as they are thought to be.

   In an article on typhoid fever (The Science of Health, October 1873) C. P. Young, M.D., corresponding editor of the magazine, wrote from California that: "Absolute quiet, absence of noise and excitement must be secured. Even the clinking of latches, the creaking of a chair, the rustling of starched garments or of paper, are known to have disturbed the sensitive brain of patients and changed the disposition to rest into nervous excitement and terminated fatally." No stronger statement of the importance of sensory rest can be made.

   The allopathic treatment of typhus fever was a battle-axe form of assault upon the patient. First a vomit, ipecac or antimony, the latter one of the deadliest poisons known; then a purge of calomel and opium, worked off with epsom salts and senna. If the head throbbed, much bleeding was performed. These preparative measures were followed with an "alterative course,"--calomel, opium and ipecac once in three hours, in a sudorific decoction of calomel and turpentine; half a teaspoonful of niter dulcit once in three hours and a tablespoonful of nitrate of potassa once in three hours, making some nauseous dose for the stomach once an hour.

   If the patient had a slight cough, he was given squills, with a little more tartar emetic; if he had pain in the side, this was treated with a blister; if there was great headache, another blister was put on the forehead or side of the face. If the patient became delirious, the head was shaved and the scalp covered with little sores; if the feet were cold, mustard and vinegar were applied to these. If any part of the body became particularly hot, leeches were applied to this part to draw out some of the blood. This treatment was continued with occasional variations "to keep up confidence," until the patient (in most cases) died.

   It must not be forgotten that typhus patients were forbidden water to drink and that fresh air was excluded from their rooms. It should also be mentioned that under such treatment a number of "accidental" or casual symptoms would frequently develop requiring special medication--such complications as diarrhea, black vomit, distention of the abdomen, hemorrhage from the liver, suppression of the urine. These developments, caused by the drugs, were met with sugar of lead, oil of turpentine, tincture of kino, arsenic and more calomel. What wonder the death rate was high!

   Trall declared that typhus patients always got well within a week when cared for Hygienically, with no palliation of symptoms except that provided by water applications. Nature has no diploma from a great university and she may be excused for the fact that she never treats a sick man or a tired horse as medical men treat typhus. She rests, nourishes, purifies; she never exhausts. She seeks to husband the body's forces; she seeks to build. Even where she appears to expend the patient's energies, it is only seemingly. She makes the most of what there is to work with.

   Trall said of pneumonia: "The pain in the lungs may be very severe, the cough extremely violent, the breathing exceedingly distressing, the fever intense and the patient utterly prostrated, with no danger of dying, providing nothing is done amis . . ." He said that even in very severe cases, "in a day or two, sometimes in a few hours, and in the worst cases, within a week, the patient will be fairly convalescent." "We have long been convinced that pneumonia is not intrinsically a dangerous disease. The fatality in the majority of cases at least results from the treatment. We have never heard of a single case being lost among the hundreds which have been treated hygienically. Because the symptoms are violent, the medicines are apt to be powerful and doses large; and therein is the danger."

   Drug relief is an enemy in disguise. It is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Drug symptoms get mixed up with symptoms of disease and the physician cannot tell one from the other. Too many pneumonia patients were killed by anodynes given to relieve pain and by drugs to relieve coughing. Sedatives and anodynes make pneumonia a very dangerous disease. Confirming the contentions of Hygienists concerning the superiority of Hygienic care in pneumonia and the deadliness of drug treatment in this disease is the experience of Prof. Austin Flint, M.D., of the New York Medical College, who was in the habit of treating pneumonia patients in Bellevue Hospital without a particle of drug. Lecturing on this disease before his medical classes, he asserted that in the hospital where he used no drugs, he lost no cases. But he added that it would not do not to give drugs in private practice.

   Dysentery, diarrhea, flux, cholera infantum, etc., were classed together as "summer complaint." The death rate in summer complaint was high, especially in infants and children. Patients were dosed with opium, alcohol, other stimulants and narcotics, aggravated and embarrassed with antiphlogistics, calomel, antimony, pepper and turpentine and thwarted with such revulsives as emetics, purgatives and blisters. In addition to the drugging, it was common to stuff these patients on mutton-broth, beef-tea, chicken-soup, panada, wine, whey and other slops.

   Instead of recognizing diarrhea as an action of the body designed to free the digestive tract of unwanted and non-usable material, to be permitted to accomplish its remedial work, every effort was made to suppress the action on the assumption that it was an evil, while the digestive tract, unable to digest food, not alone because of its diseased state but also because of the drugging, was stuffed with foods.

   No wonder an outstanding member of the medical profession once likened disease to a frightful monster and the physician to a blind man armed with a club, dealing mortal blows in the dark, sometimes striking the disease, sometimes the patient and sometimes missing both. Unfortunately, in drug treatment the patient is never missed. Whether or not the disease is ever touched, poisonous doses never fail to impair the soundness and integrity of the patient. No man ever went through a course of drug-dosing and emerged unscathed.

   Writing editorially of summer complaint in the Journal, August 1859, Trall said: "The patient should abstain entirely from food until fairly convalescent, and then use the simplest articles of diet very abstemiously." He again says in an August 1862 editorial of the same complaint: "The diet should be of the simplest and blandest kind, for a day or two; and until the violence of the disease is materially abated, none at all should be taken."

   In advanced stages of cholera, after copious watery discharges from the stomach and bowels had greatly dehydrated the body, the extremities would be cold and pulseless with vigorous cramping in the legs at short intervals, the face would present a wild cadaverous appearance and the patient would be in a state of collapse. In such a condition all that the profession offered was more purging, more emesis, more narcotization, more bleeding, more foul air, no water to drink, meat slops and brandy. Little wonder the disease continued to defy the skill of the profession and the death rate continued high. There never was a virulent nor a severe disease, nor even a mild one that did not defy the skill of the profession. Indeed, the skill of the profession has always been more virulent than the disease. How absurd, the tinkering and torturing of the bodies of the sick!

   Graham's opening lecture in New York City in 1832 was on cholera and this lecture was subsequently published in book form. The success of Hygienic means both in preventing cholera and in enabling the cholera patient to recover was phenomenal. The Hygienic rule in all acute disease is a simple one: go to bed, keep warm and abstain from food until comfort returns.

   In his work on Cholera (1854) Joel Shew, M.D., says: "The diarrhea which so generally precedes the real attack of cholera should be treated like any other diarrhea, on general principles. It would be better for the individual to practice entire abstinence from all food--the hunger cure, as the Germans call it--until the diarrhea ceases." He adds that "pure water alone will sustain" the human body "wonderfully for even weeks. If you wish to cure diarrhea, effectually and without harm to the constitution, practice fasting and live on pure soft water until it ceases . . . Some will tell you that fasting produces disease, but physiology and pathology prove that neither fasting nor starvation causes any such result. The individual who is starved, having at the same time water to drink, dies of mere inanition and not of organic disease."

   Nobody has yet provided a better plan of care for the individual suffering with sunstroke (heat stroke), than that given by Trall in the Journal, August 1853: "The patient wants rest and quiet, abundant ventilation, all the pure, fresh air possible, cold wet cloths to the head, and if the surface or extremeties are cold, bottles of hot water to the feet." I would add that no feeding should be attempted while the patient is in this state of collapse.

   What a revealing commentary upon our state of health--that we cannot have two or three hot days without scores of human beings dropping dead of heat stroke and others collapsing from the same cause! Others become ill of "diseases peculiar to summer." The truly well do not suffer from increased temperature.

   It is not unusual to have it said when health is recovered through the adoption of a Hygienic way of life that "there was not much wrong with him or he would not have responded so quickly to Hygiene." Of course not! Hygiene, unlike drugs and enervating palliatives, does not make people sick. How can a man be as sick, if he adopts a Hygienic plan of care, as he would be if he were drugged and enervated by treatments? When an acute disease is complicated with food and drugs, the patient will be very sick. Hygiene should not be censured because it fails to make the sick sicker and fails to kill.