Treatment For Scarlet Fever In 1800s

Treatment For Scarlet Fever In 1800s

Scarlet fever was a feared disease of the 19th century and there were many epidemics of high mortality. The mortality rate was 972 per million of population.

       Dr. James Russell, regarded as father of public health, discovered scarlet fever, one of the deadly diseases of his time. This was considered one of child-killing diseases during that period.

Treatment of Scarlet Fever in 1800s:

Those suffering from the disease were taken in horse driven ‘fever cabs’ and were kept in isolation hospitals for weeks to prevent the infection from spreading. All personal belongings were burnt.

Once the patient was diagnosed as having scarlet fever, common treatment being followed during that period was blood letting. The therapeutic practice of blood letting was being followed from fifth century BC and was prevalent in many cultures. This practice was considered as logical during that period when the foundations of medical treatment was on the basis that the illness is due to imbalance of blood, phlegm, yellow bile or black bile. Purging, starving, vomiting and blood letting were to be followed to restore the balance.

In the early1800s, it was common for doctors to use a surgical knife to bleed a child until the lips and cheeks became pale and the child fainted. In addition, medicine to cause vomiting was prescribed to purify the body. The appearance of the child had to be kept under strict observation to identify the gravity of the illness. This was necessary as visual observation was the only means to decide how many more times the purification and purging to be carried out to restore balance and promote health.   

A strict diet was also prescribed to avoid animal food, liquor and spices. Mothers and older female child were put on observation duty of keeping a close watch on the sick children. Hence, female family members were burdened by such additional duties other than running a household.

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Treatment For Scarlet Fever In 1800s