Cold Mitten Friction
Agatha M. Thrash, M.D.
There are many remedies for diseases that fit into the category of home remedies; remedies that can be administered effectively at home, and can be expected to be either curative or to greatly reduce the symptoms of disease. Generally speaking, it is better for an individual to take the responsibility for his own disease than to get a health professional to do so, if the disease is one that can be safely and conveniently managed at home. Over-treatment for minor ailments is thereby avoided. If a person feels that his illness is severe enough to seek skilled medical attention the natural human tendency is to expect that something special will be done for him. Often this special treatment results in a condition of over-treatment which does not give the patient the best care under the circumstances. Learn to apply simple remedies first, and expect that they will be curative in most instances.
The cold mitten friction is a simple home remedy which can be used for a variety of illnesses. First, the technique of its application, and then the conditions for which it is effective will be discussed. Simply stated, the cold mitten friction is the application to the surface of the body of rubbing with a friction motion by a cold wet cloth or specially made "mittens." Begin at one part, rub the part vigorously with the cold cloth until a red glow develops, then move to another part with the cold wet cloth. Take one part after another until the entire body surface has been covered.
The equipment consists of any container with a few quarts of cold water varying from just cool to ice water, as the case demands. To apply the friction use a large washcloth wrapped around the hand and secured by the fist, or sew up two mitts of rough fabric such as a rough terry cloth, denim, corduroy, or mohair. A loofah sponge may also be used, but it will not as effectively deliver the cold part of the treatment.
A cold mitten friction may be self-administered, although certain parts of the body cannot be reached by the hand with sufficient ease to exert a little pressure with the cold cloth; ideally the cold mitten friction is administered by a helper. The person is undressed and lies on a bed or couch covered by a sheet and a blanket if necessary for extra warmth. One arm is removed from under the covers, held in a position pointing toward the ceiling. The "therapist" puts on the mitts after squeezing them from the cold water. With the mitts in place, begin at the fingertips with an up and down, reciprocal friction rubbing of the skin of the extremity, the patient holding the extremity fairly rigid toward the ceiling, and the therapist working in quick short strokes all the way down the extremity to the armpits. Then flip the mitts around so that the still-cold back surfaces of the mitts are used in the same short quick friction strokes proceeding back up the arm. The mitts are removed, dropped into the cold water, a dry coarse towel taken and the same friction motion used down the arm and back up with the dry towel. While the treatment should not be rushed, no time should be lost between steps. By this time the extremity should have a red glow from the friction and cold. It should be replaced under the sheet and blanket, and the same procedure applied to the next extremity. The lower extremities can be treated by using the friction first to the leg and then to the thighs. If the thighs are large, the front part of the thigh may be done first, and the patient turned so the backs may be treated. The abdomen and chest may be treated, care being used not to injure the more delicate structures such as the intestinal tract or the breasts by too vigorous rubbing. After the entire front of the body has been frictioned, the patient is turned and the back is similarly treated.
In persons whose skin is ticklish the feet should be patted and not rubbed. The abdomen may be omitted in a person who has pain in the abdomen, a disease of the internal organs, or is ticklish. The act of rubbing the skin with a cold mechanical pressure gives a physiological response of vigorous and prompt reaction of the blood vessels sufficient to cause this treatment to be dubbed a vascular gymnastic. There is a profound stimulation to the skin. For individuals suffering from viral illness such as flu, colds, hepatitis, etc., this treatment pulls blood from the internal organs to the surface for equalization of the blood. This treatment can be referred to as a powerful tonic, that is, it tones the blood vessels, muscles, and skin.
The way to make the mitten is simple, consisting of cutting pieces of terrycloth about 12 inches square, sewing up the edges on 3 sides to make a squarish mitt, and hemming the open end. If the cold mitten friction is used only on the lower extremities, it has the effect of driving blood from such organs as the chest or head into the feet, reducing congestion in those areas, and thereby benefiting a headache or a cough. For individuals who feel week or faint, the cold mitten friction is the ideal treatment, and may be used in cases of anemia, in convalescence in a number of serious diseases such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, etc. In poor circulation or heart failure, this simple remedy will stimulate the peripheral circulation. Of course, its best application is in the simple treatment of such conditions as colds, influenza, bronchitis, and other upper respiratory tract infections, headaches, fatigue, etc. In fevers the cold mitten friction may give great relief from the discomfort which is associated, and often results in complete reduction of the fever.
There is scarcely any condition in which the cold mitten friction may not be employed, except that fractured limbs or malignant tumors should be omitted from the treatment. It may be employed every two or three hours, or at least two or three times a day to maintain cardiac tone and general vital resistance. The patient should always be warm before a cold mitten friction. The feet may be placed in hot water to make certain that the body is nicely warmed before the treatment begins.
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