Dysentery : its nature, prevention, and treatment.
DYSENTERY, or Bloody Flux, as it is popularly termed, is usually the result of specific blood
poisoning, which causes inflammation and ulceration of the large bowel. It is more common in
tropical countries, and is in most cases traceable to drinking bad water.
It often affects armies in the field and travellers in malarious districts. Exposure, want, and over-
fatigue are powerful determining causes, and when good conditions are not obtainable it is very fatal.
Where, however, proper feeding and nursing are to be obtained the great majority of cases recover ;
though in some a state of chronic dysentery is left behind, and in some the liver is affected
secondarily, and abscess of the liver may result.
The symptoms of dysentery consist in the passage from the bowels of slime and blood. The
motions are preceded by distressing straining ; constant desire to pass a motion, but hardly any real
stool passes – only the slime and blood.
With these symptoms there is great bodily prostration, inability to sleep for the pain, thirst, and
often craving for solid food, which aggravates the complaint.
Treatment – In the management of dysentery a pure water supply is a first requisite. If the source is
at all doubtful, the water should be boiled first and filtered afterwards care being taken to see that the filter is a new one or in good order. No solid food of any kind must be allowed. Thin gruel,
barley water, farinaceous foods, milk, and the best artificial infants’ foods are the best until the
symptoms have subsided. Afterwards, mutton broth may be given, and with great care ordinary diet
may be gradually resumed.
The avoidance of chills is a point of much importance. The safest plan is to have only woollen
clothing worn. It may be as possible, according to the heat of the weather, but wool allows the
perspiration to escape better than any other material without causing a chill to the body.
Another important matter is perfect rest. It is almost impossible for dysentery to get well without
it, as every movement tends to keep up the congestion of the part affected.
Prophylaxis – Among general precautions, care as to the water drunk, and the wearing of woollen
clothing only, and so avoiding chills, are the measures particularly to be seen to.
The medicines specially likely to guard against an attack are Ipecacuanha and Arsenicum. Those who
have to pass through malarious districts where dysentery abounds, or who reside in places where it is
prevalent, should take these two medicines in the 3rd potency each twice a day in alternation. A
couple of pilules of Ipecac. on rising and in the afternoon ; or Arsen. in the forenoon and going to
Treatment of Attack – The medicines may be given every hour if the symptoms are urgent ; less
often when the patient is better.
- Aconite – When days are warm and nights cold. Stools small, frequent, bloody or slimy ; fever,
restlessness, anxiety, fear of death.
- Arsenicum – Stools dark, putrid, mixed with blood ; during stool tenesmus and burning in rectum,
great anguish, restlessness, fear of death ; extreme thirst, aggravated at night, or after eating or
- Colocynth – Stools bloody mucus or like scrapings ; before stool, cutting and great urging, violent
colicy pains about navel, causing the patient to bend double.
- Ipecac – Stools bloody or bloody mucus ; fermented like frothy molasses ; nausea and vomiting; loathing for all food, no thirst.
- Mercurius cor – Stools pure blood or bloody mucus. During stool straining and tenesmus. Severe pains in rectum after the discharge. Almost constant cutting pain in the abdomen. [This drug is at present a favourite antiseptic in the old school ; and its use has given rise to numbers of cases of poisoning, many of them fatal, with all the symptoms of dysentery ; thus proving to the allopaths themselves its homœopathicity to dysentery.]
- Merc. sol – Similar cases to Merc. cor. Where the symptoms are worse at night, and where there
are profuse night sweats, especially on the head.
- Nit. ac. – This medicine follows the use of the mercurials where they cease to act. There is
tenesmus during stool, and spasmodic contraction of the anus.
Long-lasting exhausting pains after stool.
- Nux vom. – Stools thin bloody mucus, sometimes mixed with lumps of fecal matter. Constant
urging before stool. Violent tenesmus and cutting in hypogastrium during stool. Relief after stool.
Worse in the morning. In intemperate people or those who have been drugged. Patient very irritable.
For relief of the distressing tenesmus, injections of linseed tea are very useful and shooting to the patient.