London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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Finsbury 1914

Annual report on the public health of Finsbury for the year 1914

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It is most difficult to keep the patients in bed. Many mothers
stated that the patient should only be kept in bed while the rash
was out; others believed that to keep the patient in bed weakened
him and rendered the ultimate recovery doubtful and more subject
to complications. The mother is advised to keep the patient in
bed for one week after the rash has left the legs. This is a practice
of perfection, and not often followed in Finsbury. The bed
is often moved into the kitchen so that the whole family may be
continuously under the supervision of the mother. In one home
the kitchen was so small that when the bed was moved in, the door
of the food cupboard could not be opened and was removed. The
unprotected children are tied in chairs or in mailcarts to keep
them from the bed of the child who is ill. Mothers have to be
specially warned not to give to the other children the food which
has been half-eaten and picked over by the patient.
The universal medicine is saffron: "a pennyworth every day
for three days and a drink now and then to bring the rash all
out." In addition to the saffron, the mother may give the patient
brandy, whisky, liquorice powder, cod liver oil, flowers of sulphur,
cooling powders, syrup of buckthorn, lemon juice, lung syrup,
and "cough mixture from a general shop." One mother gave her
child the water that some eels had been in when she bought them
"to ease the chest and make the phlegm slippery." The cooked
eels were given to another child to prevent him catching measles.
Many mothers place a saucer of reputed disinfectant under the
patient's bed They imagine that this creates a zone, powerfully
inimical to germs, which wards off infection from others who
approach the patient. The home treatment for swollen neck glands
is to rub them vigorously with camphorated oil. Russian tallow
on brown paper is applied to the chest to ease the cough.
Illustrative Cases.
1. The family consisted of the parents, 5 boys, one girl, and
occupied 2 rooms. The patient, 4 years old, was up and dressed
on the eighth day after he sickened. The mother went to work
and came home at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. to cook for the family. The
kitchen utensils were all kept together and washed in a common


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