Tuesday, April 30, 2013

x1898: Physician's search for asthma remedies

Physicians in the 19th century were eager to find a good remedy to help their asthmatic patients, especially the children suffering from it.  There were no truly effective remedies for the ailment, although there were a few options that provided at least some relief temporarily.  

I almost like to think of the asthma market in the the 19th century as the weight loss market of today.  Most people are busy and don't have time to exercise.  And with all the tasty foods, they don't want to diet.  So this opens up a market for some type of weight loss gimmick.  

So today we have hundreds of products catering to this market, including pills, elixirs, weights that vibrate, and gadgets that wrap around your body to create perfect abs.  In reality, however, most of these products don't produce the results noted unless the person eats right and does some form of exercise.  

This was how the asthma market was in the 19th century.  Some of the medicines may have provided some relief, but none made your asthma go away.  However, if you avoided what was causing your asthma symptoms, it may appear as though the medicine has cured your asthma.  

And much like the modern person yearns for an article or post in a magazine that describes the latest weight loss craze, the asthmatic and 19th century asthma physicians yearned for the the latest craze in treating this malady.  

One such post was included in the 16th edition of "The Medical World" as a letter to the editor:
Editor Medical World :—I wish we could get some of the able contributors to your valuable journal to contribute their experience in the treatment of bronchial asthma. It has been my lot to have several patients suffering with that disease. Fortunately for me, I have been very successful in treating it. The prescription that I give, with some variations, has wrought wonders in some of my asthmatics. As an example, about six months ago I was called to see a lady who was attacked with malarial fever, and while dosing out medicine for her, my attention was attracted to some one in the adjoining room who seemed to be making a desperate effort to get the breath. On inquiry I learned that the party was the lady's daughter, who had been a sufferer with asthma ever since she was six months old, and that she was then sixteen; and that the attacks were getting more frequent and lasted longer. I am giving the daughter the following prescription. Since she has been taking it she has had two slight attacks, which were promptly relieved by giving the medicine in double doses every four hours. This relieves the attacks generally when the second or third double dose is taken. The following is the prescription:

B Iodide of potassium - - oz. iss

Muriate ot ammonia - - dr. iv

Fid. ext. grindelia robusta - oz. ij
Fid. ext. quebracho - - oz. iss
Fid. ext. jaborandi - - - dr. iv
Ammonia bromide - - oz iss
Simple elixir enough to make oz. viij
M. S. Take a teaspoonful three times during the day and one at bedtime.  S. H. Singleton, M.D.
Similar to today's physicians, each has his own prescription for asthmatics.  The main difference is that today's physicians have access to better asthma wisdom, better asthma remedies, and asthma guidelines.  So while there are still a variety of options for treating asthma, physicians today are less open to playing around with crap shoot remedies as S.H. Singleton was looking for.

And it's not like these remedies, like today's weight loss gimmicks, have never worked for certain people.  For the most part, some people used them with great effect.  Yet what works for one person won't necessarily work for another person.

This, coupled with the fact there really was no truly effective asthma remedy, opened up the market physicians to tinker with the available asthma remedies in search for a product the would better serve their asthmatic patients.   

  1. Taylor, C.F., editor, "The Medical World," volume 16, 1898, Philadelphia, page 26

No comments:

Post a Comment