book background

"On the treatment of inflammation of the skin"

View this document as a PDF

(27 April 1850): 502-03

By John Snow, M.D. Lond.

To the Editor of the Lancet

Sir,--In consequence of the notice, in the last number of the Lancet, of a communication to the Academy of Sciences of Paris, by M. Robert Latour, recommending the application of an adhesive compound to the skin, in order to arrest inflammation, I shall be obliged if you will allow me a little space in the same journal, in order to express my approval of this treatment, as well as to show that it is not new, but was advocated in the Lancet upwards of seven years ago, and has been practised more or less efficiently from time immemorial. In a paper on Inflammation, which was read at the Westminster Medical Society, and reported somewhat fully in the Lancet, in the early part of 1843, I was led to recommend this treatment, from a consideration of the causes which promote the circulation in the capillary bloodvessels, as well as from the result of experiments by M.M. Breschet and Becquerel, in which the skin of animals was covered with [502/503] varnish, and from the effects of covering a portion of my own skin closely with oil-silk. The following passages are quoted from the report of that paper:--

"There was one indication which might be fulfilled with safety and advantage in every case of inflammation of the skin--that was, to stop the cutaneous transpiration, which, being the chief function of the skin, promoted the circulation in its capillaries, and thereby kept up its temperature. . . . On this principle he believed that the benefit of water-dressings and poultices chiefly depended, as well as the application of lunar caustic and of flour in erysipelas, the former making a dead, and, in a great measure, an impermeable, membrane of the cuticle, and the latter likewise interfering with transpiration."--the Lancet, Feb. 25, 1843, p. 805-6.

Since the introduction of collodion, I have applied it in erysipelas, with apparently great advantage. In a case of erysipelas of the face and head, which occurred in a lady about thirty years of age, in April last year, this was the only local application. It was applied, once every day, to the whole inflamed surface. The first application to every newly-inflamed part always afforded immediate relief. At the end of six days the inflammation had quite disappeared, and the patient was convalescent. It is in the first stage of inflammation of the skin that protecting it from the air appears to be of most service.--I remain, Sir, your obedient servant,

John Snow, M.D.

Frith-street, Soho, April, 1850.

bottom of book image