The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Health Notes.

Edited by H. Laing Gordon, M.D.
Volume 10, 1899, pg. 190

Concerning the Nose and Ear.
By H. Lambert Lack, M.D. F.R.C.S.

Until quite recent years, the nose has been a much misunderstood organ. It is often a prominent feature, and the caricaturist at least may be acquitted of having overlooked its uses--for him. Anatomists have regarded the nose as a kind of buffer to break shocks and interrupt blows which might damage certain more delicate structures. An analagous view may perhaps be entertained by schoolboys.

Recent researches, however, have shown that the nose performs more valuable, if less exciting services. It in fact acts as a filter, and with greater success than the majority of such contrivances. The air passing through the nose is freed, not only from gross impurities, but also from minute organisms, such as the living germ of disease. Moreover it is a self-purifying filter, the interior of the nose being actually free from organisms, whilst the atmosphere without is germ-laden. The nose not only catches its germs but rapidly disposes of them.

A second important function of the nose is to raise, or in very hot climates to lower, the inspired air to the body temperature. Again the nose yields up moisture to the air sufficient to saturate it at the body-temperature. Thus the dry cold air, laden with germs and irritating particles, is rendered moist, warm, pure, and in every way suitable for the delicate structures with which it will later come in contact.

How great then is the importance of nose-breathing to the general health. The mouth as a respirator is a very inefficient substitute. Mouth-breathers, old and young, are troubled with all kinds of throat affections, and are strongly predisposed to certain well-known infectious diseases. Mouth-breathing children are delicate, anaemic and undersized. But the physical conditions which give rise to mouth-breathing are in their early stages easily removable; and under proper treatment the habit may be overcome and its results avoided.

The physical condition causing mouth-breathing is generally some form of nasal obstruction. We may mention, briefly, one or two other results of this often disregarded condition. Disturbing dreams or "night-terrors" are sometimes one result; they are not always due to errors in diet. Nose-breathing is a powerful instinct--at least in the child. In sleep, the voluntary effort being wanting, the air does not pass through the widely-opened mouth as might be expected; the stream of air endeavours to pass almost entirely through the nose. This not only causes snoring but produces also partial suffocation, and the child wakes suddenly during the night screaming violently.

Nasal obstruction also leads to more or less alteration in the child's appearance. The open mouth, the pinched-in nose, and the hanging lips give the face a dull stupid look. In many such children there is an inability to fix the attention quite in keeping with the expression.

So-called "throat-deafness" may result from preventable nose or throat trouble, and this form of deafness is not seldom overlooked. Parents may deny that their children are deaf, but will readily admit that they have a habit of not answering or of saying "what." This apparent inattention brings the unfortunate child into disgrace at school, and the teacher should be made to understand that the child is really slightly deaf. Medical aid is required for such cases, or the deformed expression and the inattentive habit may become permanent.

"A little fire kindleth a great matter." The early recognition of departures from health may prevent the wreck of a whole life. Discharge from the ear is another common affection of childhood which demands attention. When it is slight and does not run out, parents may sometimes assume that the child will grow out of the affection. This may prove to be the case, but on the other hand very serious results may follow, for the ears are closely approximated to the brain. Neglected ear discharge, indeed, might almost have been the subject of Shakespeare's words, so closely do they describe the results following the inattention to the symptoms:--

    . . . "within the hollow crown
    Which rounds the mortal temples of a king
    Keeps death his court, and there the antic sits,
    Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
    Allowing him a breath, a little scene--

    As if this flesh which walls about our life,
    Were brass impregnable--and humoured thus
    Comes at the end, and with a little pin
    Bores through his castle wall and--farewell king!"
    [Richard II]