Because a young man took a walk and got tired and sat down to rest, we may say that the modern treatment of tuberculosis began on the day that he thought over his experience.
His name was Peter Detweiler, and he was a young medical student who had contracted tuberculosis. As soon as the diagnosis was made he decided to take up the treatment in the new sanitarium where Dr. Herman Bremer was trying out his brand new idea about the treatment of tuberculosis by altitude. This was 75 years ago.
The cardinal principle of Dr. Bremer’s treatment was exercise, and he insisted upon his patients walking up the mountain paths. The second part of his treatment was cold water, and he really meant a stream of ice cold water poured on these patients after they had taken their mountain walk.
Young Dr. Detweiler became fatigued from his walk and sat down one day and did not complete it. He felt so much better that he came to believe that the exercise and cold water were mistakes, and that the most important element in the treatment of tuberculosis is rest. Today that opinion has gained ground until it is the fundamental idea of all tuberculosis treatment. Rest in bed or in an armchair for a period of time, at least six months, in order to give the body a chance to gain strength to fight the disease.
FRESH AIR, NUTRITION
The two other principles are that the tuberculosis patient should be in the fresh air and that his nutrition should be carefully built up. So far as fresh air is concerned, this does not necessarily mean a climate. As Dr. F. H. Pottinger of Monrovia, Cal., says, “I would rather be treated intelligently in the worst climate than be allowed to run wild in the best.”
The tragedy of so many cases of tuberculosis is they sacrifice everything for climate. Climate is undoubtedly an advantage, but only if you have enough money to live comfortably in the climate and employ intelligent medical care without worrying yourself about expense. The patients that think the climate will do everything, and after reaching it have to work to make expenses, are worse off than if they had stayed at home. And the warnings in railway and bus stations on the way to California and Colorado should be interpreted in this lightthat the boards of health of these states will not be responsible for transient non-resident patients with tuberculosis who need hospitalization after they reach the haven of climate.
In the matter of food, it is recommended that the patients should not be stuffed, especially enough to upset their digestion. A little good food which is well digested is better than a great deal of food which causes the stomach to be upset so much that the dietary plan has to be interrupted. Of late years, a diet in which the salt is restricted and the calcium increased has been recommended and tried with some success.