Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/624

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so after she had eaten of it she was attacked "with acute urticaria (nettle-rash), showing large erythematous patches and wheals very prominent on the face and neck. She then was seized with violent attacks of spasmodic asthma, which obliged her to leave the table. I inquired if she had ever suffered this before, and she informed me she had, after eating hare."[1]

Asthma is a warm-weather disease. The first frost mitigates its worst symptoms as surely as it would cure a fever or relieve insomnia, and "hay-asthma," often ascribed to the effect of some vegetable pollen, is probably a consequence of the relaxing influence of the first warm weather; for in midwinter, when the air is entirely free from vegetable spores, a single mild day, following upon a protracted frost, may produce symptoms exactly resembling those of a hay-catarrh. The complication of chronic bronchitis, sometimes described as bronchial asthma, should properly be called bronchial congestion, and differs from an asthmatic affection as a constipation differs from a gastric spasm. Asthma proper occurs under three forms: phthisical asthma (in the last stage of pulmonary consumption), chronic asthma, and acute spasmodic asthma. In the latter phase the disease recurs at longer intervals than in its chronic form, and limits its attacks to a few minutes or hours, but involves a greater amount of distress than any other disorder of the pulmonary organs—not excepting the pleuritic tortures of pneumonia. In pneumonia the difficulty of breathing consists in its painfulness; in asthma, in the persistent torpor of the respiratory organs. The patient feels as if the expansion apparatus of his chest were utterly paralyzed, the inhaled breath seems to come to the gate of the lungs and no farther; no gasping avails; the increasing distress of the air-hunger appears only to aggravate the stubbornness of the inert organ. The violence of the paroxysm often tarns the color of the face into a livid purple, the throbbing of the heart becomes spasmodic, but, when the hopes of the sufferer are almost reduced to the supposed euthanasia of strangulation, the rigor suddenly relaxes, a deep gasp fills the lungs to their very bottom, and a few minutes after the breathing becomes quiet and regular, and only a cold perspiration reminds the patient that he has passed through the chill shadow of death.

As the primary cause of asthma is as yet unknown, its diathesis is not directly curable, though its latency may be prolonged by avoiding and counteracting the well-ascertained proximate causes. The mode of treatment varies with this twofold object: prevention and palliation—which frequently differ where we have to deal with spasmodic affections that call for the promptest means of relief. Thus horseback riding is an approved cure for epilepsy, but during the progress of the fit the application of the specific might lead to strange consequences. Yacht-sailing in a storm would be a bad way of curing sea-sickness,

  1. Quoted in the St. Louis "Eclectic Medical Journal," June, 1883, p. 269.