Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/227

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DEAFNESS, AND THE CARE OF THE EARS.

through its mouth, just so soon should intelligent medical investigation be made of its nostrils, preferably by a proper specialist.

It is quite common for a child's mouth to drop open when asleep, although he may have been breathing through his nose when falling asleep. To correct this tendency it has long been a custom among many mothers to tie a folded handkerchief over the child's head and under its chin to keep the mouth closed. But it is cruel and dangerous to do this unless we are positive that the child can breathe easily through the nose.

Snoring also should be a warning, because snoring is usually due to breathing through the mouth, and mouth-breathing is due to the swollen, catarrhal condition of the inside of the nose; and it is this condition which is the cause of dry catarrhal deafness, which is by far the most frequent form of deafness.

Most of our population have some general ideas of catarrhal affections of the nose and throat, but very few except those who have lost their hearing from it have any conception of its intimate causal relation with deafness. The popular idea of catarrh is that it is a condition of more or less constant discharge of offensive mucus from the nose. This is so only in the most aggravated and worse forms of the disease, and fortunately is rare. Properly speaking, catarrhal affections of the nose and throat are simply an enlarged, swollen, and thickened condition of the lining membrane of the nostrils and back part of the throat. This thickened condition of the mucous membrane in the nose is usually accompanied by an increased production of mucus, which often drops backward into the throat, and, by increased moisture in the back of the throat, excites the continuous little hacking cough to dislodge it and clear the throat.

These patients are very subject to what are called "colds in the head," with complete closure of the nasal passages. The reason their colds in the head are so severe is because a very slight swelling of the inside of the nostrils, which is always, the condition in this acute disease, occurring in a nose already much narrowed by a chronic permanent enlargement of its lining membrane, totally obstructs the nasal canals.

A very common but unhealthy remedy for temporary or permanent occlusion of the nose is to snuff a solution of salt and water through the nostrils. Unfortunately, this practice has been too often thoughtlessly recommended by family physicians. If the habit is prolonged, the condition for which it is used will surely be aggravated. A much better solution to use in the nose, and also as a gargle in acute sore throat, instead of chlorate of potassium, is common baking soda (bicarbonate of soda), a teaspoonful in a cup of warm water. Whatever solution is used in the nose, it is a great mistake to forcibly snuff it into the nostrils from