|The Infant Care|
The mouth is an organ which is usually over-cared for during the early months of life. The nurse feels that it is necessary to rub the tongue and gums with the finger in order to cleanse them, when, as a matter of fact, such treatment is responsible in many instances for sore mouths. The best way to care for an infant’s mouth is to let it alone always. The mouth as well as the other openings of the body are self-cleansing. Nature cares for them if she is not interfered with by meddle-some nurses.
Drugs are rapidly absorbed into the system through the mucous membrane of the mouth, and serious harm may result from mouth washes. Absolute cleanliness of everything which goes into the baby’s mouth is the surest preventive of disease. The so-called baby pacifier, a rubber nipple with a ring, should never be allowed on this account. It is one of the most frequent carriers of disease, and many cases of indigestion and tuberculosis can be traced directly to its use. It is also responsible for many unsightly deformities of the upper jaw and teeth.
Kissing : The baby should not be kissed on the mouth, and the nurse especially should be warned against so doing. It is easy to infect an infant with tuberculosis in this way. Kissing upon other parts of the face by those who are healthy will do no harm, but it is a practice which need not be encouraged.
Older Children : Older children may be taught to rinse the mouth and throat with warm water. They should first thoroughly rinse the mouth, then throwing the head back, as if for gargling, allow a mouthful of the solution to pass down into the throat, thoroughly bathing the tonsils and pharynx. After rinsing for a few seconds, the solution should be spit out or swallowed. This procedure should take the place of gargling under all circumstances, as an inflamed throat is often aggravated by the movement caused in active gargling. Children should also be taught to open the mouth and allow the mother to examine the throat. The handle of a spoon makes the best tongue depressor, and as soon as the child learns that it is not to be hurt, it is easy to examine the tonsils and pharynx.
The eyes require very little attention if they are healthy. They may be cleansed with a bit of soft linen and lukewarm water. The lids should never be rubbed, but simply wet with this swab and dried with a clean cloth, with the gentlest touch. In case of any discharge from the eyes, they may be cleansed every hour by allowing a few drops of Boric acid (10 grains to the ounce) to pass into the eye under the lower lid. If the lids stick together, a little white vaseline may be smeared on them before sleeping. If this treatment does not give relief in a few hours, the condition is likely to become serious and should receive immediate attention from a physician. In no condition is early treatment so important as in inflammation of the eyes of infants. Often a few hours’ delay in calling a physician and establishing treatment may result in blindness. In infants under a year, it is not wise to allow a bright light to strike directly on the eyes.
Aside from keeping the external ear free from wax, a healthy ear may be left alone. Never use a tooth pick or any other pointed object for cleaning the ear. The ear drum is very delicate and the slightest injury to it may cause serious harm. Children frequently suffer from earache, and in many cases, although the pain is in the ear, it is caused by an irritation upon the nerves of the ear from a tooth which is forcing its way through the gums. Treatment directed to the teeth will often relieve this pain, and the ear should receive no treatment from the mother except the application of heat. The ear should first be covered with cotton, and a hot salt bag or hot water bag placed under the affected part. A hot salt bag is perhaps the most satisfactory.
Drugs which are dropped into the ear are of doubtful value, and usually do harm.
The nose may be kept clean by using a bit of cotton twisted on the end of a toothpick. This may be dipped in warm water, or, if there is inflammation of the nose, a little vaseline may be used. The greatest gentleness should be used in cleansing the nose, and the end of the swab should never be passed so far inside the nose that it is out of sight. Harsh treatment is worse than none.
Douches and nasal sprays should be avoided except under a physician’s direction. The mucous membrane of the baby’s nose is so sensitive that an inflammatory condition may easily be caused by spraying. In addition to this, if too much force is used, fluids may be driven into the tube between the ear and the nose, and cause pain and discomfort and sometimes permanent injury.