On the Measles

[ On the Measles ]

Date: 1783/06/17

Publication Format


loss of appetite
white tongue
heavy head
running nose
swollen eyelids
green stools
bleeding nose

marshmallow root
elder flowers
whey-barley water
chamomile tea
sugar candy
oil of sweet almonds
spirits of vitriol
Jesuits' bark
syrup of poppies
buttermilk whey
asses milk

Nova Scotia

Source: Nova Scotia Gazette and the Weekly Chronicle
Institution: Nova Scotia Archives | Source Origin: Nova Scotia Newspapers on Microfilm | Reference: Consult the Nova Scotia Archives' "Nova Scotia Newspapers on Microfilm" list (Royal Gazette) for a complete account of microfilm reels for this paper. EMMR includes recipes from Microfilm Reels 990, 8155, 8156, 8158, 8162


Considers causes, symptoms, the regimen, and the medicine for the measles. Vol. 13, No. 893. Microfilm Reel 8156.



As the MEASLES are now in Town, and probably may
in time spread into the country where people in general are
ignorant of the Nature of that Disease and Method of Cure, 
the publication of the following Dissertation, it is hoped
may be of public benefit. 

        On the MEASLES. 
THE Measles appeared about the same time with
the Small Pox, and are nearly related to that dis-
ease. They both came from the east, are both infections
and seldom attack people more than once. The disease,
itself, when properly managed, is seldom dangerous, but
its consequences are often fatal.
    CAUSE--This disease, like the Small pox, proceeds
from infection, and is more or less dangerous, according
to the constitution of the patient, the season of the year, 
the climate, &c.
    SYMPTOMS.--The Measles, like other fevers, are
preceded by alternate fits of heat and cold, sickness and
loss of appetite. The tongue is white, but generally
moist. There is a short cough, a heaviness of the head
and eyes, drowsiness, and running of the nose. Some-
times, indeed, the cough does not come before the erup-
tion. The eye lids frequently swell so as to occasion
blindness. The patient generally complains of his throat;
and vomiting or looseness often precedes the eruption. The
stools in children are commonly greenish; they complain 
of an itching of the skin, and are remarkably peevish.
Bleeding at the nose is common, both before and in the
process of the disease.
    About the fourth day, small spots, resembling flea-bites
appear first upon the face, then upon the breast, and after-
wards on the extremities: These may be distinguished
from the Small-pox, by their scarcely rising above the
skin. The fever, Cough, and difficulty of breathing, in-
stead of being removed by the eruption, as in the Small-
pox, are increased, but the vomiting generally ceases.
    About the sixth day, the Measles generally grow dry
on the face, and afterwards upon the body, so that by the
ninth day they entirely disappear. The fever, however,
and difficulty of breathing, often continue, especially if
the patient has been kept upon too hot a regim. Petechiae
or purple spots, may likewise be occasioned by this error. 
A violent looseness sometimes succeeds the Measles, in
which case the patient’s life is in imminent danger.
    Such a die of the Measles generally expire about the
ninth day, and are evidently carried off by an inflamma-
tion of the lungs.
    The most favourable symptoms are a moderate loose-
ness, gentle sweats, and a plentiful discharge of urine.
    When the eruption suddenly falls in, and the patient is
seized with a delirium, he is in the greatest danger. If
the Measles turn of a pale colour, it is an unfavourable
symptom, as are also, great weakness, vomiting, restless-
ness, and difficulty of swallowing. Purple, or black spots
appearing among the Measles, are very unfavorable.
When a continual cough, with hoarseness, succeeds the
disease, there is reason to suspect a consumption of the
    Our business in this disease is to assist nature, if her
efforts be too languid, in throwing out the morbid matter,
by proper cordials; but when they are too violent, they 
must be restrained, by evacuations, and cool diluting li-
quors, &c. We ought, likewise, to endeavour to appease
the most urgent symptoms, as the cough, restlessness and
difficulty of breathing.
    REGIMEN--The regimen in this disease should be of
the same kind with that recommended in the small-pox, 
viz. cooling and diluting. Acids however, do nor an-
swer to well here as in the small-pox, as they tend to
exasperate the cough. Small beers, likewise, though a 
good drink in the small-pox, is here improper. The
most suitable liquors are decoctions of liquorice, with
marsh-mallow roots, and sarsaparilla, infusions of lin-
seed, or of the flowers of elder with milk, clarified whey-
barley water or such like. These, if the belly be bound
may be sweetened with honey; or, if that should disagree
with the Stomach, a little mana may occasionally be add-
ed to them.
    MEDICINE--The measles an inflamatory disease, 
without any critical discharge or matter, as in the small
pox, bleeding is commonly necessary, specially when the
fever runs high, with difficulty of breathing, and great
oppression of the breath. But if the disease be of a mild
kind, bleeding may be omitted.
    Bathing the feet and legs in lukewarm water, both tends 
to abate the violence of the fever, and to promote the

    The patient is often greatly relieved by a vomiting.
When there is a tendency this way, it ought not to be 
stopped, but encouraged, by drinking lukewarm water, 
or weak camomile tea.
    When the cough is very troublesome, with dryness of
the of [sic] throat and difficulty of breathing it will greatly re-

lieve the patient, if he holds his head over the steam of
warm water, and draws the syrup into his lungs. He

[page break]

may likewise lick spermaceii and sugar-candy pounded to-
gether; or take now and then a spoonful of the oil of
sweet-almonds, with sugar-candy dissolved in it; these
will soften the throat, and relieve the tickling cough.
    In case the Measles should suddenly disappear, the
patient must be supported with wine and cordials. Blister-
ing plaisters must be applied to the extremities, and the
body rubbed all over with flannels. Warm poulties may
likewise be applied to the feet and palms of the hands.
When purple or black spots appear, the patient’s drink
should be sharpned with spirits of vitriol; and, if the 
putrid symptoms run high, the Jesuits bark must be ad-
ministered in the same manner as directed in the Small-
     Opiates are sometimes necessary, but should never be
given except in case of extreme restlessness, a violent loose-
 ness, or when the cough is very troublesome. For chil-
dren the syrup of popies is sufficient. A tea spoonful or 
two may be occasionally given according to the patient’s
age, or violence of the symptoms.
     After the Measles are gone off, purging is absolutely
    If a violent looseness succeeds the Measles, it may be check-
ed by taking, for some days, a gentle dose of rhubarb in
the morning, and an opiate over night; but if these do not
remove it, bleeding will seldom fail to have that effect.
    Patients recovering after the Measles, should be very
careful what they eat or drink. Their food for some time
should be light, and in small quantities, and their drink
diluting, and rather of an opening nature, as butter-milk, 
whey, and such like. They are also to beware of ex-
posing themselves to the cold air, left a suffocating catarrh
an ashma, or a consumption should ensue. 
    Should a cough, with difficulty of breathing, and other
symptoms of a consumption remain after the Measles,
we would recommend small quantities of blood to be fre-
quently let at proper intervals, at the patient’s strength
and constitution will bear. He ought, likewise, drink
asses milk, to remove to a free air, if necessary, and to ride
daily on horseback. He must keep close to a diet, consist-
ing of milk and vegitables; and, lastly, if these do not
succeed, let him remove to a warmer climate.

This is probably manna, defined in one instance by the OED, as "A dried, sweet exudate or gum produced by various plants when cut, damaged, or punctured."
This seems likely to be spermacetti, which is according to the OED, "A fatty substance [...] found in the head (and to some extent in other parts) of the sperm-whale [...] and some other whales and dolphins; it is used largely in various medicinal preparations, and in the manufacture of candles."
The OED defines Jesuits' bark (n): "the medicinal bark of species of Cinchona, Peruvian bark (introduced into Europe from the Jesuit Missions in S. America)."