Pleurisy is an inflammation of the pleura, a serous membrane which envelopes the lungs and also lines the inside of the chest. It may be acute or chronic, and mild or severe. The disease may be limited to one side of the chest or it may include both the sides.
Like any other viral infection, pleurisy can occur in small epidemics. The disease is quite common in young children, but it is generally secondary to pneumonia and usually follows the wrong treatment of the latter.
The membrane that cover the lung is called pleura. The outer membrane, known as ‘parietal pleura’, covers the inner wall of the chest wall and the inner membrane, known as the ‘visceral pleura’, covers the substance of the lungs. There is a capillary space between the two membranes, which is filled with fluid and enables the lungs to move freely in the chest. The parietal membrane is reflected from the chest wall to cover the upper surface of the diaphragm, and in the midline, it covers the mediastinum, the partition which separates the two sides of the chest and contains the heart, great vessels and other structures which run through the thorax.
The onset of pleurisy is sudden. It is generally marked by a sharp .and stabbing pain, which may be felt in any part of the chest wall or over the diaphragm. Deep breathing or coughing increases the pain. In many cases, the disease begins with a chill, followed by congestion of the pleura and later by fever. The degree of the fever determines the severity of the disease.
The inflammation of pleura chokes the circulation within the tissues. Breathing becomes difficult due. to the clogging of air circulation, and by pain and swelling within the chest. Later an abnormal amount of fluid collects between the two layers of pleura. It is called pleural effusion. After absorption of pleural effusion or after a drainage of the effusion, the pressure is lowered, the pain is reduced and the child feels relieved. The child is sometimes affected by dry pleurisy, a form where there is little or no effusion. Thirdly the effusion may be circumscribed and mix with blood, or be of a dirty brown color with an offensive odour, leading to much suffering.
Causes of Pleurisy
The most common among the immediate causes of pleurisy is that of ‘common cold’, followed by congestion and swelling of the pleural membrane. Germs of putrefaction can be located later in the ooze of serum from the tissue. The disease may be a complication of pneumonia. In a few cases, the disease may also occur in rheumatic fever, uraemia and other conditions.
Treatment for Pleurisy
The child patient should be kept in bed until the temperature becomes normal and remains so for several days. At the first sign of the disease, hot fomentation should be applied to the chest directly over the painful area twice or thrice daily. These should be thick and large and must be applied under the arm from sternum to spine while the patient lies on the opposite side. They should be continued till the pain is relieved. The movement of lugs should be restricted by strapping the chest with tight muslin bandage or adhesive plaster: Ice bags should never be applied to the chest in pleurisy. Radiant heat may be applied to the chest after convalescence to absorb exudates.
Natural Home Remedies for the treatment of Pleurisy
The use of celery (Ajwain-ka-patta) is one such remedy. It is known to have antispasmodic properties. The seeds of this plant are also useful in treating this infection.
The use of the herb hogweed (punarnava) is beneficial in the treatment of pleurisy. It helps remove catarrhal matter and phelgm from the bronchial tubes. The powder of the root can be taken in small quantities three times a day.
Linseed (alsi) is also valuable in this disease. A loose poultice of the seeds can be applied with excellent results. The counter irritant effect of the poultice can be enhanced by dusting mustard powder over it.
4. Air bath, sun bath and dry friction bath are of particular importance.