Life in the Tropics
(by Gillian Sheehan)
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Children in the Tropics | Liver | Chill
“sunstroke of all kinds is due to nervous disturbance from prolonged high temperature, either with or without direct exposure to the sun’s rays. The liability to sunstroke is increased by fatigue, mental excitement, depression of spirits, living and especially sleeping in crowded apartments; by want of ventilation, by want of water, by constipation, and by the abuse of alcoholic drinks”.The premonitory symptoms of sunstroke included irritability, restlessness and headache, inability to make much exertion without great effort, confusion of ideas, confusion of vision, loquacity, and fits of laughing and crying. Heat apoplexy could be preceded by the premonitory symptoms described above, or it might begin with the person fainting, being hot to the touch, with flushed face and bloodshot eyes, and noisy breathing or snoring. In a short time the person could become unconscious and have convulsions. [Information from William Moore, A Manual of Family Medicine and Hygiene for India, reprint Delhi, 1989, (6th edition 1893), p. 372.]
“All their work was over at eight in the morning, and for the rest of the day they could lie on their backs and smoke Canteen-plug and swear at the punkah-coolies. They enjoyed a fine, full flesh meal in the middle of the day, and then threw themselves down on their cots and sweated and slept till it was cool enough to go out with their “towny”....”In general it was known that, in the tropics, several small meals were better than a few large ones. Also meat was not required in the same amounts as in temperate climes. Regarding alcohol:
“it would be well, if at all, for at least some months after entering the tropics, to refrain from anything more powerful than a little claret-and-water, and, perhaps, a glass of sherry daily. Spirits should be shunned as poisons. Beer of good light quality is less deleterious, but is not necessary. As a rule, no beer, wine, or liquor should be taken excepting at meals. In the hot weather it is advisable that none be taken till after sundown”.In “The Other Man”, (1886), Colonel Schreiderling “dangled on the brink of heat-apoplexy, but it never quite killed him”.
“...sleeping in the day should be avoided by adults, especially after a meal, as it tends to induce dyspepsia and possibly liver disease”. [Information from William Moore, A Manual of Family Medicine and Hygiene for India, reprint Delhi 1989, (6th edition, 1893), p.604 and 606.]
“Every door and window was shut, for the outside air was that of an oven. The atmosphere within was only 104....Spurstow packed his pillows craftily so that he reclined rather than lay, his head at a safe elevation above his feet. It is not good to sleep on a low pillow in the hot weather if you happen to be of the thick-necked build, for you may pass with lively snores and gugglings from natural sleep into the deep slumber of heat-apoplexy.”In July 1911, Kipling wrote to Lieutenant WH Lewis, who had just been assigned to No.5 Mountain Battery in India advising him:
“wear a flannel band next your skin and always have a dry one in reserve, no matter how wet you get elsewhere. Never drink water; never touch any fizzy-water outside a regimental mess whose mineral water machines are above reproach; take boiling hot tea in hot weather. This will make you sweat but will cool you and keep you from heat-apoplexy.”Prickly Heat
“In the symptomatic stage, savage warfare did I wageChildren in the Tropics
’gainst a trifling erubescence on the arm,
For I scratched it night and day till I heard some idiot say
That a little iodine would do no harm.
When it spread to hip and shoulder, then I grew a little bolder
And agreed with all the experts at the club
That germicidal soap was the only certain hope,
Used gently in the matutinal tub.
But each little feverish pore became a flaming sore
So I cursed and bathed three hours a day instead,
And I used up quite a crowd o’ tins of different coloured powder
And I oiled myself before I went to bed.
But each day I’m getting worse (which explains this scratchy verse)
So my own advice I’ll sell you for a song -
Every nincompoop you meet, has a cure for prickly heat,
And every single one of them is wrong.”
“Each well-regulated Indian Cemetery keeps half-a-dozen graves permanently open for contingencies and incidental wear and tear. In the Hills these are usually baby’s size, because children who come up weakened and sick from the Plains often succumb to the effects of the Rains in the Hills or get pneumonia from their ayahs taking them through damp pine-woods after the sun has set.”Lady Emily Metcalfe, who lived in Delhi in the 1830s and 40s wrote of every mother’s expectation to lose “at least three children out of every five she bore” [Information from Mark Harrison, Public Health in British India, Cambridge University Press, 1994, p.50.]
“May the Gods forgive my boasting, but nearly a year has fled[from “Dear Auntie, Your Parboiled Nephew”.] In “Pagett, M.P.”((1886), Pagett had ten days “liver” due to drinking beer.
And I haven’t been seedy once in liver or stomach or head.”
“....I’ve been expiating too good fortune by sorrow in my system - they call it the liver, and it makes me sad and sick and sodden all down the right side. No, it is neither too much “Italian decadence” nor champagne, but a genuine complaint of nature ....”[Information from Thomas Pinney, editor, The Letters of Rudyard Kipling, Vol.2, p.183.] In 1897, in a letter to Dr James Conland, Kipling said he had been feeling “hipped and depressed” and “sorrowful”. He thought it was “liver and ghastly depression”. The doctor he consulted in London told him that he “hadn’t a trace of liver” and prescribed a tonic and told him to stop smoking. [Information from Thomas Pinney, editor, The Letters of Rudyard Kipling, Vol.2, p.327.]
“...when in a state of perspiration, if the clothes cannot be changed, evaporation should be limited, and chill prevented, by putting on more garments, and by avoiding draughts”. It was thought that protection from cold was more necessary in India than in a cooler climate. [Information from William Moore, A Manual of Family Medicine and Hygiene for India, reprint Delhi 1989, 6th edition, 1893.]
Children in the Tropics | Liver | Chill