Imperative That Physicians and Nurses Not Be Summoned Unless Necessary – Proper Care of Patients – Surgeon General Blue Tells What to Do for Persons Sick with Spanish Influenza – Use of Gauze Masks Recommended
Washington – In an effort to reduce unnecessary calls on the over-worked physicians throughout the country because of the present epidemic of influenza, Surgeon General Blue of the United States public health service calls upon the people of the country to learn something about the home care of patients ill with influenza. Physicians everywhere have complained about the large number of unnecessary calls they have had to make because of the inability of many people to distinguish between the cases requiring expert medical care and those which could readily be cared for without a physician. With influenza continuing to spread in many parts of the country, and with an acute shortage of doctors and nurses everywhere, every unnecessary call on either physicians or nurses makes it so much harder to meet the urgent needs of the patients who are seriously ill.
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“The present generation,” said the surgeon general, “has been spoiled by having and expert medical and nursing care readily available. It was not so in the days of our grandmothers, when every good housewife was expected to know a good deal about the care of the sick.
“Every person who feels sick and appears to be developing an attack of influenza should at once be put to bed in a well-ventilated room. If his bowels have moved regularly, it is not necessary to give a physic; where a physic is needed, a dose of castor oil or Rochelle salts should be given.
“The room should be cleared of all unnecessary furniture, bric-a-brac, and rugs. A wash basin, pitcher, and slop bowl, soap and towel should be at hand, preferably in the room or just outside the door.
“If the patient is feverish a doctor should be called, and this should be done in any case if the patient appears very sick, or coughs up pinkish (blood-stained) sputum, or breathes rapidly and painfully.
“Most of the patients cough up considerable mucus; in some, there is more mucus discharged from the nose and throat. This material should not be collected in handkerchiefs, but rather in bits of old rags, or toilet paper, or on paper napkins. As soon as used, these rags or papers should be placed in a paper bag kept beside the bed. Pocket handkerchiefs are out of place in the sick room and should not be used by patients. The rags or papers in the paper bags should be burned.
“The patients will not be hungry, and the diet should therefore by light. Milk, a soft-boiled egg, some toast or crackers, a bit of jelly or jam, stewed fruit, some cooked cereal like oatmeal, hominy or rice – these will suffice in most cases.
Comfort of Patient
“The comfort of the patient depends on a number of little things, and these should not be overlooked. Among these may be mentioned a well-ventilated room; a thoroughly clean bed with fresh, smooth sheets and pillowcases; quiet, so that refreshing sleep may be had; cool drinking water conveniently placed; a cool compress to the forehead if there is headache; keeping the patient’s hands and face clean and the hair combed; keeping his mouth clean, preferably with some pleasant mouth wash; letting the patient know that someone is within call, but not annoying him with too much fussing; giving the patient plenty of opportunity to rest and sleep.
“It is advisable to give the sick room a good airing several times a day.
“So much for the patient. It is equally important to consider the person who is caring for him. It is important to remember that the disease is spread by breathing germ-laden matter sprayed into the air by the patient in coughing or even in ordinary breathing. The attendant should therefore wear a gauze mask over her mouth and nose while she is in the sick room. Such a mask is easily made by folding a piece of gauze four fold, sewing a piece of tape at the four corners, and tying the upper set of tapes over the ears, the lower set around the neck. If the folded piece of gauze is about six inches square it will nicely cover both the mouth and nose. Such a mask can be worn without discomfort for several hours, after which it can be boiled in water, dried and used over.
“The attendant should, if possible, wear a washable gown or an apron which covers the dress. This will make it much simpler to avoid infection.
“It is desirable that all attendants learn how to use a fever thermometer. This is not at all a difficult matter, and the use of such a thermometer is a great help in caring for the patients. The druggist who sells these thermometers will be glad to show how they are used.
“In closing, and lest I be misunderstood, I wish to leave one word of caution: If in doubt, call the doctor.