This disease, which to give it the correct name, is “Acute anterior poliomyelitis”, has been placed in the position of Enemy No. 1, as far as the health of the people is concerned.
One feels that the prominence it has achieved is rather disproportionate, and that its present publicity has come near to being a “stunt”. Certainly it is receiving more publicity than did the vastly more deadly influenza epidemic at the end of the first world war.
The name “infantile paralysis” is a misnomer, as actual infants are rarely attacked, the chief victims being older children and young adults.
As the medical name implies, this is a disease tending to affect the anterior part of the spinal cord, the part from which spring the nerves supplying movement to the muscles.
This manifestation, however, occurs in only a small percentage of cases attacked; and it is probable that many patients suffering from this complaint recover without a true diagnosis having been made. This is the more probable as the initial symptoms are usually those of a common cold, or sore throat, or mild influenza, or the symptoms usually met with in the beginning of one of the acute childish illnesses, such as measles.
If these symptoms be promptly treated homoeopathically, there is no reason why paretic symptoms (as they are called) should develop.
Should the disease proceed unchecked and go on to the stage of myelitis, i.e. inflammation of the spinal cord, then the patient in a few days from the onset will probably develop a stiff neck or a rigid condition of the muscles near the spine, at first in the neck region, later down the back. With this there is backache and a weakness of one or more limbs.
Even without specific treatment (and no allopathic specific treatment to cure or to prevent has been evolved, because no specific organism has been found in connection with the disease), the weakness of the limb may entirely clear up in a few months or even after as long as two year. In a certain number of cases the paralysis persists and leaves the patient with a permanently weak and wasted limb.
As to homoeopathic treatment this of course will vary with the patient, though the earlier in the case that the complaint is tackled the fewer the remedies from which choice has to be made.
The very first symptoms may suggest Aconite or Belladonna, or Bryonia or Pulsatilla, or any other. However, one remembers that Hahnemann was able to predict the remedy to check an epidemic of Cholera, by nothing the symptoms of the majority of cases and matching them with the provings of a remedy (viz. Camphor).
In like manner one would think that with the absence of symptoms calling definitely for another remedy, that most likely to help would be Gelsemium. This remedy is advised for several reasons. Firstly, Gels. as provings and poisoning records show, has paretic weakness in its symptomatology (witness the dropping of the upper lids met with in influenza and other cases calling for Gels.). In fact Gels. has been proved as a poison to attack the spinal cord.
Then Gels. has all the backache and the painful stiff neck which we have seen may develop in this disease, and for which there is no need to wait before giving the similar remedy.
One more fact strikes one. This epidemic has increased continuously in one of the warmest, finest spells of weather for years, and Gels. is one of the remedies to be considered in complaints occurring in warm weather.
Causation cannot be used as a help in prescribing as the cause in not known. Abstinence from ice-creams and swimming pools has been advised, but there is no evidence that either of these has caused a case of the disease.
One advice as regards prevention is to keep up the general health by pure food, plenty of fruit and salads, and an abundance of fresh air. If cases of the complaint occur near at hand no harm could be done by a dose of Gelsemium (say 30) every week for two or three weeks, or as long as the infection is near. In an undoubted or suspected case of the actual disease unless some other remedy be unmistakably indicated give Gels. 30 (or any other potency available) every two hours till temperature is normal or symptoms subside.