This, in truth, is a gruesome, discouraging physical
derangement, which, if not overcome, in time weakens the mind.
The rule is that children recover from acute intestinal
attacks, and to all appearances are as well as ever the next day after a severe
convulsion. This is true in those cases caused by indigestion. It is not
uncommon for convulsions to develop in neurotic children every time they have
There are different kinds of spasms, depending upon the
various causes. All convulsions are symptoms. In other words, they are
symptomatic--caused by various derangements of the system.
The nervous system of children is very susceptible to
irritations. A severe indigestion, causing pain in the stomach and bowels, is
liable to throw a young child or baby into convulsions. A catarrhal condition
of the throat, extending to the ears and to the mastoid cells, will cause
convulsions in the majority of children. Meningitis (inflammation of the
membranes of the brain) is often ushered in with convulsions.
A severe injury will often create a convulsion. Fear,
or sudden fright, will throw a child into convulsions. If the mother who is
overworked and has become very tired should nurse her child before she has
rested, her milk is liable to produce convulsions in the baby. Fright on the
part of the mother, if it does not dry up the milk, and if the child nurses, is
liable to throw the child into convulsions. It is very dangerous for a mother
to nurse a child immediately after pronounced anger, or after she has been
subjected to sex-excitement. Pronounced jealousy on the part of the mother will
so change the milk of her breasts as to throw the child into convulsions.
Mothers subjected to the excitement of picnics on hot days, or who are spending
a day in an outing in very hot weather, may change their milk to such an extent
that the child will be thrown into convulsions.
Many of these cases may end in vomiting and purging in
those children where convulsions do not develop. The so-called cholera infantum
in babies is oftener than otherwise caused by the mother's milk being deranged
in the various ways hinted at above. Hence cholera infantum frequently starts
in an infant with convulsions, and with vomiting and purging following.
Mothers who go into labor with
the stomach and bowels full of food, will have a very great deal of discomfort,
and most of them will have instrumental labor. If nothing else is ruptured, the
neck of the womb usually is. This then becomes a point of septic inflammation
and ulceration. Systemic infection follows, which puts the mother's milk in a
septic state unfit for the child. After the child has been nursed for a few
days, it is made sick, and possibly will develop convulsions. If this is
understood, the child will be taken from the breast and given artificial
feeding. It matters not how old the child is--if it is two or three days, or
two or three weeks old--it must be kept without food until the convulsions have
entirely disappeared for at least twenty-four hours. Then it may be given the
amount of modified milk that will be within its digestive possibilities.
Mothers who feel kindly toward their unfortunate
offspring may be prepared to put the child back on the breast, if given the
proper uterine treatment. If the ulceration and septic absorption can be
overcome in a reasonable time by proper local treatment, in the course of two
weeks the child may be put back on the breast. In the meantime the breasts
should be emptied daily with a breast-pump. This manipulation should be very
carefully carried out, so that the breasts will not be bruised. If the breasts
are kept clear of milk for two weeks, and the mother is fed properly, and her
mind is poised as it should be, she may try nursing the child again. But watch!
If her blood has not been cleared of the toxic absorption, the milk may
disagree. Then artificial feeding should be given again, and continued for a
week; the same treatment being repeated for the mother.
Many times I have been successful in bringing the
mother back to the normal, so that she can have the pleasure of being a real
mother to her baby.
There are many causes for spasms or convulsions, but
the common cause is gastro-intestinal indigestion. The indigestion may have a
physical or mental base. Almost invariably a child has been indulged in taking
unfit food mixtures or in overeating. As soon as the bowels and stomach are
cleared out, the cause is removed; and, unless the child is overfed immediately
or very soon after, it may never have another convulsion.
Symptoms.--The child may appear unhappy and
indisposed, and look sick for a day or two. The face may be flushed and white
around the mouth Perhaps it appears sick at the stomach. It may gag and make an
effort at vomiting. The temperature may run very high. Some children are
threatened with convulsions for several hours before a real spasm takes place;
others may be taken suddenly. The child will scream, put the arms around the
mother, and act frightened. After which it may quiet down for a minute; then
have the same symptoms repeated. Many times, however, the child will have pain
in the bowels, which are usually bloated with gas, and may be sick at the
stomach, or even vomit. In the effort at vomiting too much blood is sent to the
brain, and the convulsion ensues at once.
Few people need a description of this fearful disease,
but for those who know nothing about it I will say that the child appears
excited or frightened, and begins to jerk the arms and hands in rapid
succession. The jerking is usually confined to one hand and one arm on one side
of the body, the head jerking and twisting to the opposite side. The face is
drawn and distorted; the eyes roll or stare; the pupils are dilated; and in a
few seconds there will be a struggle for breath. The symptoms often give the
impression that the child will choke; but the breath is shut off from the
spasmodic contraction of the muscles of the throat and lungs. As the
convulsions continue, the child's face becomes purple--bluish to black; the
tissues about the face are puffed and engorged; and in a longer or shorter time
the intervals between the jerkings increase in length, until relaxation begins.
Then breathing or inhalation takes place, with a distressing rattling in the
throat, which scares the mother, as she thinks the child is choking to death.
It is not due to anything in the throat, except the mucus that has accumulated
during the convulsion. The choking is really caused from the spasmodic closure
of the air- passage. The jerking subsides, and relaxation comes slowly.
Sometimes the tongue is bitten, causing the mucus to be bloody.
After relaxation starts, it is not very long before the
child becomes quiet and falls into a heavy sleep that may last for an hour or
for several hours. In severe cases, children will go through one of these
convulsions, and hardly get relaxed before another convulsion starts, as severe
as the previous one. The length of time varies from a minute to two or three
minutes. I have seen many infants at the breast develop a short spasm every
twenty minutes for twelve to twenty-four hours. Of course, such convulsions are
very much lighter than the type described above.
Treatment.--The treatment for convulsions in
children over one year of age, is simple enough. What we know as acute
cases--cases that are brought on from indigestion in children that have been
allowed to eat too heartily and improperly-- should have the bowels cleared out
with enemas. Most of them have vomited sufficiently to remove all the
decomposing food in the stomach. Then if they are given a fast of a day or
two--long enough to get back to the normal--the eating may begin with very
little fruit, cooked non-starchy vegetables or vegetable soup, and
salad--orange juice mornings, ground salads noons, soup evenings. They should
be kept on this plan of feeding at least two days before milk is given. Then a
little milk may be given with the fruit for breakfast, and also with the
vegetables and salad at noon, and either sweet milk or buttermilk, with prunes?
for the evening meal. After four
days, regular eating, without the frills that made them sick.
At the beginning of the second week, a little whole-
wheat bread, eaten dry, may be given, followed with fruit for breakfast, toast
followed with vegetables and salad at noon, and fruit with milk i. the evening.
This is a balanced ration for children.