Bensan’s Early TB Treatment Regime
Early treatment for pulmonary TB remained consistent until the 1940s and included a strict regime of rest, fresh air and graduated exercise.
Walking and Working
The Benenden Museum archive contains records of the rigid treatment routine. ‘Work or walks must be commenced at 10 am and 2.30 pm and stop when the bell rings’. Note the comments below, that under ‘no circumstances should any prescribed walk or grade work be either curtailed or exceeded’.
Walking would be prescribed for the patients who had a normal temperature, as the first stage of graduated exercise. Patients should take a steady pace and avoid breathlessness.
Working would be prescribed as patients started to show signs of improvement. Work tasks were graded as light, medium and heavy and included woodwork, painting, digging and planting.
Fresh air was as an important element to the treatment regime. Windows were to remain open at all times, whatever the weather and permission was needed from the Medical Officer before a window could be closed.
A Postcard Home 1910
This postcard, written by a Bensan patient, describes how a storm in 1910 had blown snow into her room. She was so cold she couldn’t sleep.
The Sandbag Cure
An early treatment included sandbags being strapped to the chests of patients whilst they were resting. It was thought to give the lungs something to grapple with to increase strength and breathing power.
During the sandbag treatment, smoking was allowed but strictly during the following times. 8.45-12, 1.45-4.45 and 6.30-9pm. No smoking was allowed before meals however.
There was still no cure for TB in the early 20th century but developments in diagnosis were emerging. Sputum could be analysed for evidence of the disease and the use of x-ray in diagnosis was becoming available.
Look out for Posts that describe the introduction of surgical treatments and drug therapy at Benenden.