One of the most severe diseases of the intestines is cholera. It involves the lower part of the small bowels and it is a very serious ailment. Being a water borne disease it is very common during the monsoons. The mortality rate for this disease has been quite high.
The disease strikes suddenly and fills the intestinal canal with bacilli, which die rapidly and leave the person quickly either alive or dead. It comes as an epidemic and creates havoc but subsides quickly aswell.
Symptoms of Cholera are: Cholera appears in three stages. In the first stage, the patient suffers from mild diarrhoea and vomiting, which worsens rapidly. The motions become watery, containing no faecal matter. The patient experiences severe cramps in the abdominal muscles and limbs, resulting due to lack of salts. The temperature rises but the skin is generally cold and blue and the pulse is weak. The intake of water to quench thirst dilutes the body salts still further, and makes the cramps worse.
In the second stage of collapse, the body becomes colder, the skin dry, wrinkled and purple. Voice becomes weak and husky a while the urine looks dark and formation is less, or altogether absent. It is in this `algid` stage that the patient may die, as early as 24 hours after the onset of the symptoms.
In the third stage, recovery follows in favourable cases. All the changes seem to reverse themselves, the fluid loss decreases and there is improvement in the general condition. Even at this stage, a relapse may occur or the patient may sink into a condition resembling typhoid fever. The condition may deteriorate over a period of two or three weeks. During this stage of reaction, the temperature may rise, and the patient may be in danger of pneumonia.
Causes of Cholera: Cholera is caused by a short, curved, rod-shaped germ known as vibrio cholerae. This germ produces a powerful poison or endotoxin. It is spread by flies and water contaminated by the germs. The real cause of the disease, however, is the toxic and devitalized condition of the system brought about by incorrect feeding habits and faulty style of living. This condition facilitates invasion of cholera germs.
Treatment of Cholera: The treatment should in the beginning aim at combating the loss of fluids and salts from the body. To allay thirst, water, soda water or tender coconut water should be given for sipping although these may be thrown out by vomiting. Therefore, only small quantities of water should be given repeatedly, as these may remain for sometime within the stomach and a stay of every one-minute means some absorption. Ice may be given for sucking. This will reduce internal temperature and restrict the tendency to vomit. Intravenous infusions of saline solution should be given to compensate for the loss of fluids and salts from the body. The patient may require five litres or more a day. Care should, however, be taken to avoid water logging the patient. Potassium may be added to the infused fluid. Rectal saline may sometimes prove useful for adults. Normally, half a litre of saline, with 30 grams of glucose, should be given per rectum every four hours until urine is passed freely.
After the acute stage of cholera is over, the patient may be given tender coconut water and barley water in very thin form. When the stools begin to form, he should be given buttermilk. As he progresses towards recovery, rice softened to semi-solid form mixed with curd, may be given. The patient should not be given solid food till he has fully recovered. Liquid and bland foods, which the patient can ingest without endangering a reoccurence of the malady, are best. Lemon, onion, green chillies, vinegar and mint should be included in the daily diet during an epidemic of cholera.
Certain home remedies have been found beneficial in the treatment of cholera. The foremost among these is the use of lemon. The juice of this fruit can kill cholera bacilli within a very short time. It is also a very effective and reliable preventive food item against cholera during the epidemic. It can be taken in the form of sweetened or salted beverages for this purpose. Daily intake of lemon with food can also prevent cholera.
The root bark of guava is another valuable remedy. It is rich in tannins and can be successfully employed in the form of concentrated decoction in cholera. It will arrest vomiting and symptoms of diarrhoea.
According to Culpeper, an eminent nutritionist for children and Young people, nothing is better to purge cholera than the leaves and glowers of peach. They should be taken in the form of syrup or conserve. The leaves of drumstick tree are also useful in the treatment of this disease. A teaspoon of fresh leaf-juice, mixed with honey and a glass of tender coconut water, can be given two or three times as a herbal medicine in the treatment of cholera.
Onion is very useful in cholera. About 30 grams of this vegetable and seven black peppers should be finely pounded in a pestle and given to the patient. It allays thirst and restlessness and the patient feels better. The fresh juice of bitter gourd is another effective medicine in the early stages of cholera.
Two teaspoons of this juice, mixed with an equal quantity of white onion juice and a teaspoon of lime juice, should be given.
Cholera can be controlled only by rigid purification of water supply and proper disposal of human wastes. In case of slightest doubt about the contamination of water, it must be boiled before use, for drinking and cooking purposes. All foodstuffs must be kept covered and vegetables and fruits washed with a solution of potaissium permanganate before consumption. Other precautions against this disease include avoiding all uncooked vegetables, thorough washing of hands by all those who handle food, and elimination of all contacts with the disease.