Medical inquiries and observations. By Benjamin Rush, M.D. professor of chemistry in the University of Pennsylvania.
Rush, Benjamin, 1746-1813., Redman, John, 1722-1808, dedicatee., Rush, Benjamin, 1746-1813. Appendix: containing, the new method of inoculating for the small pox.
Page  129


FEW summers elapse in Philadelphia, in which there are not instances of many persons being affected by drinking cold water. In some seasons four or five persons have died suddenly from this cause, in one day. This mortality falls chiefly upon the la|bouring part of the community, who seek to allay their thirst by drinking the water from the pumps in the streets, and who are too impatient, or too ignorant, to use the necessary precautions for preventing its mor|bid or deadly effects upon them. These accidents sel|dom happen, except when the mercury rises above 85° in Farenheit's thermometer.

THREE circumstances generally concur to produce disease or death from drinking cold water. 1. The patient is extremely warm. 2. The water is extreme|ly cold. And, 3. A large quantity of it is taken in|to the body. The danger from drinking the cold wa|ter is always in proportion to the degrees of combi|nation which occur in the three circumstances that have been mentioned.

Page  130 THE following symptoms generally follow, where cold water has been taken, under the above circum|stances, into the body.

IN a few minutes after the patient has swallowed the water, he is affected by a dimness of sight, he staggers in attempting to walk, and unless supported, falls to the ground; he breathes with difficulty; a rat|tling is heard in his throat; his nostrils and cheeks expand and contract in every act of respiration; his face appears suffused with blood, and of a livid color; his extremities become cold, and his pulse impercep|tible; and unless relief is speedily obtained, the dis|order terminates in death, in four or five minutes.

THIS description includes only the less common cases of the effects of drinking a large quantity of cold water, when the body is preternaturally heated. More frequently, patients are seized with acute spasms in the breast and stomach. These spasms are so painful as to produce syncope, and even asphyxi. They are some|times of the tonic, but more frequently of the clonic kind. In the intervals of the spasms the patient ap|pears to be perfectly well. The intervals between each spasm become longer or shorter, according as the dis|ease tends to life or death.

IT may not be improper to take notice, that punch, beer, and even toddy, when drank under the same circumstances as cold water, have all been known to produce the same morbid and fatal effects.

I KNOW of but one certain remedy for this disease, and that is LIQUID LAUDANUM. The doses of it, Page  131 as in other cases of spasm, should be proportioned to the violence of the disease. From a tea-spoonful to near a table-spoonful have been given in some instances, before relief has been obtained. Where the powers of life appear to be suddenly suspended, the same re|medies should be used, which have been so successfully employed in recovering persons supposed to be dead from drowning.

CARE should be taken in every case of disease, or apparent death, from drinking cold water, to pre|vent the patient's suffering from being surrounded, or even attended by too many people.

PERSONS who have been recovered from the im|mediate danger which attends this disease, are some|times affected after it, by inflammations and obstruc|tions in the breast or liver. They generally yield to the usual remedies which are administered in those complaints, when they arise from other causes.

IF neither the voice of reason, nor the fatal ex|amples of those who have perished from this cause, are sufficient to produce restraint in drinking a large quantity of cold liquors, when the body is preternatu|rally heated, then let me advise to

1. GRASP the vessel, out of which you are about to drink, for a minute or longer with both your hands. This will abstract a portion of heat from the body, and impart it at the same time to the cold liquor, provided the vessel is made of metal, glass, or earth; for heat follows the same laws, in many instances, in passing Page  132 through bodies, with regard to its relative velocity, which we observe to take place in electricity.

2. IF you are not furnished with a cup, and are obliged to drink by bringing your mouth in contact with the stream which issues from a pump, or a spring, always wash your hands and face previously to your drinking, with a little of the cold water. By re|ceiving the shock of the water first upon those parts of the body, a portion of its heat is conveyed away, and the vital parts are thereby defended from the ac|tion of the cold.