Definition.--A highly contagious fever, marked by a breaking-out on the surface of the body--irritation of the air passages and skin.
Etiology.--Measles is the manner in which a child's body throws off toxemia. When children are cared for improperly, they become toxemic, and their skin eliminates toxin to a greater degree than does the skin of grown people. It is said that measles causes more deaths than any other of the acute fevers in childhood. In the large cities whooping-cough is a running-mate of measles in the matter of mortality. Statistics show that ninety-four per cent of the deaths from measles occur among children under five years of age. This disease, like scarlet fever, starts with a decided derangement of the gastro-intestinal canal, and where patients are fed to keep up their strength, it is made very much more intense than where they are given water, and left entirely without food or drugs until the disease has spent its force. As in the case of scarlet fever, the germ of measles is not known. But, of course, from my standpoint I am not looking for germs, and shall be surprised when one is discovered that really causes the disease. There will, however, be plenty of germs found in the intestine, and in those cases which are fed until the bowels are filled with decaying food the type of the disease will become septic.
Nursing children of a year or two of age will often be killed by frequent feeding. Mothers will nurse them until the rotting process set up in the intestine brings on a state of congestion of the lungs that ends fatally. These cases are given food when they really want nothing but water. If the child happens to be taking the breast, or using milk as the principal diet, the thirst will be mistaken for hunger, and the child will be forced through its thirst to take sufficient milk to start up enough decomposition to cause the disease to end fatally. This is the reason why measles is so fatal. Feeding in older children leads to the same results--the same fatal termination.
Symptoms.--It is supposed that the disease starts with a rash--an elevation or puffy condition of the skin, in from seven to eight, and in some cases fourteen, days after exposure. It often begins with headache, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes with a chill. Preceding this there will be a cough and sneezing, and the eyes will water. These symptoms will continue until the disease is well established. The eyes will be so irritated that often the room must be darkened to give the patient comfort. The cough is often accompanied by wheezing, which prevents rest, and in cases where children are fed and given cough medicine, the cough will continue until there is a decided congestion or engorgement of the lungs. The complications--such as nose-bleed, hemorrhage from the bowels, laryngitis, edema of the glottis, bronchitis, pneumonia, inflammation of the kidneys, inflammation of the sac around the heart--are all unnecessary under the proper treatment.
Treatment.--Keep the patient confined to bed, and have the room well ventilated, but avoid drafts over the patient. Fever seldom runs high in measles unless there is a septic condition developed from improper feeding. If the rash does not come out well, the patient should be given a warm bath and then covered up well until the rash appears. Care must be taken in not allowing the patient to cool off too quickly. The bowels should be washed out once or twice a day with an enema similar to the one recommended in scarlet fever. The patient should have all the water desired. Sometimes drinking cold water will hurry the rash to the surface. In cases where the temperature runs exceedingly high, the patient should be put in a hot bath, and kept there until thoroughly relieved; but high fever is not likely to occur unless patients have been fed and medicated. Medicines are given by physicians to relieve the distressing cough. It has been my experience that, if patients are not fed, there will be little cough after the rash comes out, and I would certainly not recommend drugs for relief.
Children should be prevented from getting out in the open air too soon. If they do, they are liable to catch cold and cause a complication that will last through life, on the order of a bronchial cough, or granulated eyelids, etc. Most of these complications, however, are due to patients being infected by decomposition in the bowels. When the fever is gone and the rash has subsided, the children may be fed the same as directed under scarlet fever.