Early spring is particularly the period for respiratory infections. It used to be more so than it is today. Pneumonia, in general, is less prevalent, I believe, and less severe, than it once was, although it still is a serious menace. Whether the decline in its incidence is due to the fact that we do not have as severe winters as we used to cannot be said certainly. There are those who deny that our winters are any different, although most people, I believe, agree that during the last few years the so-called old-fashioned winter has not been with us.
It is certain, however, that in some ways we have made great improvement in our conduct of life and health during the winter. It is probable that the higher incidence of pneumonia and respiratory infections in the spring used to be due to the fact that the food supply during the winter time was liable to be monotonous, and fresh foods and foods with vitamins, such as Vitamin A, which tend to increase resistance to infection, were lacking in the diet. At the end of a considerable stretch of this, the body was in a poor condition of resistance, and with the alternate snows and thaws of spring, infection easily invaded.
At any rate, the incidence of pneumonia certainly is higher in February and March than at any other time. The character of the pneumonia which we see nowadays is somewhat different than it was 25 years ago. When we said “pneumonia” then we meant a severe disease which ran a definite course of about 7 to 11 days, and terminated abruptly. This was the so-called lobar pneumonia.
Nowadays we see a somewhat different type which does not run either as short or as definite a course. It has the characteristics of a somewhat prolonged fever, with local signs in the lungs and bronchial tubes. It is generally called “broncho-pneumonia” or “bronchial pneumonia.” While the old pneumonia was always due to a definite germ, the pneumococcus, broncho-pneumonia may be due to a great many different kinds of germs.
One of the great dangers of pneumonia is the likelihood that it will be neglected in the beginning. Especially is this true with busy men with considerable responsibilities who, in age, are just past the prime of life. Nothing is more important in preventing the serious developments of pneumonia than that the patient should go to bed immediately on the onset. The fellow who says he just has a deep cold and will go down to work just the same, or who fails to appreciate the significance of a chill, or who thinks because he has coughed up a little bloody sputum that it doesn’t amount to anything, and keeps on about his business, is the one who is in real danger. Any cough accompanied by fever or chill should be treated with the most whole-some respect from the very beginning, and wholesome respect means going to bed with it.