Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/627

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THE REMEDIES OF NATURE.

cured asthma with actual cautery—the application of a hot iron to the ribs of their patients, who naturally preferred the risk of suffocation: Dr. Zimmermann ascertained that the mere proposition of the hellish corrective made the delinquent gasp in a way that relieved the stricture. But the agreeable disappointment probably impaired the efficiency of subsequent threats; and the chill of a cold plunge-bath never fails to produce a contraction of the diaphragm that serves the same purpose.

After the first strangling-spell has been relieved, a very simple mechanical contrivance will help to restore the regularity of the respiration: "Take a straight stick, about six feet long and one inch in diameter, and mark it from end to end with deep notches, at regular intervals, say two inches apart, with smaller subdivisions, as on the beam of a lever-balance. Then get a ten-pound lump of pig-iron, or a large stone, and gird it with a piece of stout wire, so as to let one end of the wire project in the form of a hook. The exercise consists in grasping the stick at one end, stretching out arm and stick horizontally like a rapier at a home-thrust; then draw your arm back, and (still keeping the stick rigidly horizontal) make your hand touch your chin, thrust it out again, draw back, and so on, till the forearm moves rapidly on a steady fulcrum. Next, load the stick—i. e., hook the stone to one of the notches, and try to move your arm as before. It will be hard work now to keep the stick horizontal; even a strong man will find that the effort reacts powerfully on his lungs: he will puff as if the respiratory engine were working under high pressure. On the same principle, the lungs of a half-drowned man may be set awork by moving the arms up and down, like pump-handles. But the weighted stick, bearing against the sinews of the forearm, still increases this effect, and overcomes the stricture of the asthmatic spasm, as the movement of the loose arms relieves the torpor of the drowning-asphyxia" ("Physical Education," p. 137).

But a lethargic feeling about the chest still remains behind: the spasm has ceased to obstruct the entrance of the air, but breathing has still to be effected by an effort of the voluntary muscles, as if the lungs were yet too weak to perform their proper work. After an attack of spasmodic asthma this lethargy may continue for twenty-four hours; in chronic asthma, where it constitutes the chief symptom of the complaint, it may last for a week or two. Next to out-door exercise, the best corrective is conversation, laughing, and singing—any continued vocal effort seems to overcome the passive resistance of the torpid organ. Many physicians must have noticed that a large proportion of their asthma-patients are persons of solitary habits. Laughter is a peptic stimulant, while silence and brown studies favor dyspepsia, asthma, and sleeplessness. Bed-ridden garret-dwellers can at least talk to themselves; and, with the aid of a pet squirrel or a copy of the "Asthma-Cure Almanac," may manage to organize an occasional