The Family Medicine Chest

EVERY household should have a Medicine Chest, because in many cases when treatment is required, it is wanted at once, or in the middle of the night. The chest should be kept locked, and the key should be kept out of the reach of children, and always in the same place.

The contents should include: Antiseptics for the eye, the throat, and the skin.


Materials for applying Fomentations.

Aspirin Tablets.

A Thermometer.

It is useful to have Ipecacuanha Wine, Friars Balsam, one or two Liniments, Glycerine, Carron Oil, and Calamine Lotion.

All these are described under their appropriate headings.

Antiseptics. Colds, sore throats, most acute illnesses, inflamed wounds, boils, carbuncles, abscesses and blood-poisoning are all caused by germs (also known as microbes or bacteria). Germs are living organisms, too small to see with the naked eye, .and substances which kill them are called Antiseptics. These require to be used in varying strengths; if they are too strong, they damage the tissues; the skin can stand stronger ones than the throat and the throat stronger ones than the eye.

Boracic Acid is the mildest of these, and Boracic Acid Crystals (which are purer than Boracic Acid powder) should be at hand to make a lotion, chiefly useful for bathing inflamed eyes. A tea-spoonful of the crystals may be dissolved in a breakfast cup of warm water. Another useful plan is to keep a large bottle of

Saturated Solution (i.e.. water to which Boracio Acid has been added until some remains undissolved), and the required amount from this is mixed with an equal quantity of hot water to make the lotion.

To bathe the eyes, little pieces of cotton-wool are soaked in the lotion and carefully wiped along the inside of the eyelids from without inwards, that is, towards the nose; never wipe the eye with the same piece of cotton-wool twice.

Boracic Acid is also very useful in the form of Boracic Lint. This can be used dry to cover a clean wound, or moist for a dirty one see FOMENTATIONS).

Glycerine and Borax. This is used to clean out the mouths of infants, and is especially useful in such conditions as Thrush. A soft, clean piece of linen is wrapped round the finger, the latter is dipped into the Glycerine and Borax, and then gently inserted into the mouth and carefully worked round the gums and cheeks.

Gargles. There are a number of mild antiseptics which are useful as gargles. Permanganate of Potash crystals dissolved in water until it is bright red (but not a dark purple) is very good for anyone old enough to use it witbout swallowing the gargle. Sanitas, Milton, Peroxide of Hydrogen, Glycerine of Thymol are all useful for gargling.

Then we come to the stronger antiseptics which are applied to dirty wounds, of which perhaps the most generally useful is Lysol. This should never be used stronger than one teaspoonful to the pint of water. It is not uncommon to cause damage by using antiseptic lotions of too great a strength. There are various alternatives to Lysol on the market, such as Jeyes Fluid, Cyllin and Lysoform. Lysolats are a handy tablet form of a similar nature.

Tincture of Iodine. This should always be kept handy for applying to any cut or abrasion. All that is required for a dog-bite, for instance, unless it is an unusually severe one, is to paint it over with tincture of Iodine, then cover it with dry boracic lint. Hydrophobia being an extinct disease in England, there is no need to cauterize the wound.

Antiseptic Ointments are messy things, and not generally to be recommended, except on medical advice, but Golden Ointment, if obtained at a reputable chemists, is useful for Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eyelids), and Resinol is valuable for Pruritis (itching, usually associated with a tendency to Piles). Never put ointments on cuts that may be dirty.

Band-aid. A tin of Band-aid is very handy. It consista of small strips of sticking-plaster with a piece of boracic gauze in the middle of each strip for applying to cuts or small sores.

Aperients. No one should require opening medicine, but we must recognize that the conditions of civilization are not perfect. Constipation is the great curse of city dwellers. Exercise, sound teeth, a proper diet and a clean skin are the essentials, and a few words on these subjects may be useful.

Exercise. Standing onyourfect behind a counter, hour after hour, or tramping up and down stairs on household duties are very tiring, but they are not the right sort of exercise. The muscles must contract vigorously, and as many as possible should be brought into play. For those who can afford them, besides the ordinary outdoor games, rowing, fencing and swimming are excellent, and need only take an hour a day. Gardening on an al lotment has saved many a mans health. Physical

Jerks are good enough, but become monotonous. Skipping and dancing are very good. The exercise should be sufficiently vigorous to make one perspire. At all ages exercise is important, but it is during adolescence that it is essential and often most difficult to obtain. All praise to Hiking!

The Teeth. Decayed teeth are dangerous. Many people do not understand this, because the results come on very slowly, and it is not easy to see how the bad teeth cause them. Some people with bad teeth never have toothache, but your health suffers just as much from bad teeth whether they ache or not.

What are the dangers ? One is that every time you swallow, you take into your body some poison from the bad teeth. It is just as if you always carried a bit of bad meat about in your mouth. The other danger is that you cannot chew thoroughly. So you avoid wholesome food such as meat and crusts and apples.

Diet. To avoid constipation, your diet should include plenty of roughage, i.e.. the pulp of fruit and the fibres of vegetables, which give exercise first to the jaws and later to the bowels. Many people do not drink enough water.

The Skin. Thousands and thousands of little glands in the skin are pouring out sweat all the time, although usually in such small quantities that one is not conscious of it. Therefore, it is very desirable that your clothing be light and porous, and your skin should be kept clean by frequent bathing and vigorous towelling.

Now we shall add a note or two about special aperients. Many new ones are on the market, but two of the oldest still hold their own.

Castor Oil. This is still the best medicine for ensuring a thorough clear-out of the bowels, especially in cases of acute diarrhom. A baby with acute diarrhoea should be given a teaspoonf ul of castor oil at once. An adult who has eaten something that has upset him should take a large tablespoonful. The oil should always be warmed. Babies take it readily mixed with warmed and sweetened milk. Adults can take it sandwiched between lemon juice and brandy. Senna. This is the chief constituent of Liquorice Powder and Syrup of Figs and is also taken as Confection, Syrup and Essence or more simply as a drink made by steeping the pods in water (preferably for 24 hours in cold water).

Paraffin. More recently introduced, refined Paraffin (and the various patented emulsions now obtainable) has proved of inestimable value as a lubricant. It is not absorbed and can be given to the youngest child.


Although the aperient effect of sulphur is very slight, it may be included here because it does help the body to get rid of poisonous materials. It is especially valuable for pimples and blackheads, and can be obtained in the form of tablets of which three a day usually suffice.

Grey Powders in the appropriate dose (which the chemist will tell you) are of great value for babies as an occasional remedy, especially when the child is irritable and out of sorts for no obvious reason, but should not be given regularly.

Health Salts can be made as follows: Cream of Tartar, Tartaric Acid, Bicarbonate of Soda and Epsom Salts, two pennyworth of each well mixed with half a pound of granulated sugar. The uses of these are well known.

Aspirin. Although, generally speaking, the less medicine one takes the better, especially where it is taken without medical advice, Aspirin is so safe and sure in the relief of pain that it should always be kept in the house. Children take it well. It relieves almost every sort of pain. There are a few people in whom it produces unpleasant symptoms, but they are rare, and soon discover that it does not suit them.

Calamine Lotion is a very useful soothing lotion for applying to insect bites, sunburnt arms and similar conditions. It is dabbed on the skin and allowed to dry by evaporation.

Carron Oil (a mixture of linseed oil and lime-water) should be kept for immediate application in the case of burns. It is best to ask the chemist to mix 10 per cent, of eucalyptus oil with it. Many children still die from burns. The danger of a burn is roughly proportionate to the area of skin affected and the quicker the oil is applied the less shock there is to the child.

Fomentations (or hot compresses) are chiefly used for inflammation but you must remember that heat soothes almost every pain. For example, stomach-ache, from whatever cause, is greatly relieved by a large hot compress over the whole abdomen.

To make a fomentation: fold a piece of flannel (or if it is to be applied to an open wound, a piece of boracic lint), to make a pad of four layers. Place it in a hand towel, lightly twist the ends of the towel and place in a basin with the ends of the towel hanging out. Pour on boiling water. Twist the towel tightly so as to squeeze out as much water as possible. Apply the pad, and cover it with a piece of waterproof jaconet. The important points are: 1. The water should be actually boiling. The more thoroughly the pad is wrung out the hotter it can be applied. 2. The better it is squeezed the hotter it can be applied. 3. The waterproof should overlap the edge of the pad all round. If any lint or flannel sticks out, the whole thing quickly gets cold. 4. The waterproof should be placed handily, so that it can be clapped over instantly. 5. The patient should not be burnt. It is a good plan to put your hand between the skin of the patient and the flannel at the moment of application and gradually withdraw it.

Fomentations are more handy and cleaner than poultices, but do not keep the heat so long. Kaolin Poultice is a preparation that can be bought and is more efficient than the ordinary linseed or bread poultice.

Friars Balsam. If you have a cough, it is very much soothed by inhaling Friars Balsam. A teaspoonful should be put into a small jug of boiling water and you should cover your head and the jug with a towel and inhale the steam through your mouth. It is especially useful to do this at night before settling down to sleep.

Glycerine. For the treatment of chipped hands glycerine is the sovereign remedy. After washing the hands and while they are still wet, about a teaspoon-ful should be poured into one palm and the hands thoroughly rubbed together. Then they should be dried in the ordinary way.

Glycerine Enema. A teaspoonful of glycerine injected into the bowel of an infant from a small syringe makes a safe enema, the action of which is almost immediate.

For bronchial colds glycerine should be nibbed on the back and front and the chest should then be enveloped in warm flannel. Ipecacuanha Wine. Can be used in two ways. If you want to make a child sick, you should give it a teaspoonful of ipecacuanha wine every quarter of an hour until it vomits. This is not good treatment for a very delicate child.

For a cold on the chest in children ipecacuanha is useful. For an infant of six months, 5 drops can be given 3 times a day in a teaspoonful of water.

Liniments. Camphorated Oil or some other liniment or embrocation should be kept in the house for use for chest colds, lumbago or other forms of muscular rheumatism and sprains and strains.

A Thermometer should be kept in the-chest. Many people object to this. They say: We should always be getting alarmed at finding wed got a temperature and be fussing about ourselves. And then, as soon as we get them, we break them, and anyhow we cant read them. It is true that they are fragile, but they are cheap. Anyone who is not mentally deficient can master them if he or she is given five minutes practice.

As to finding you have a temperature, if your temperature is raised, it is always im-portant to know it. Some children get a high temperature very easily; the knowledge of this is of the greatest value. On the other hand, very often when one feels hot and ill, the discovery that ones temperature is normal gives one great relief.

There are some important points to remember in this connection: 1. Always clean the instrument before returning it to its case. 2. Never clean it in hot water. 3. Always note that it is shaken down to below normal (98-4°, where the little arrow is) before use. 4. Use a half-minute thermometer and keep it in a minute. 6. In an infant take the temperature in the bowel, applying a little vaseline to the bulb, but remember that it is naturally about a degree higher here than under the tongue. 6. A sub-normal temperature is never serious unless the patient is obviously very ill.

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