University of Virginia Historical Collections at the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library

Hot Springs: Letter from Dr. H. Howard, December 10, 1841

Dr. Henry Howard {1}

Dr. Henry Howard {1}

Henry Howard was born in 1792 in Maryland, graduated with a degree in medicine from the University of Pennsylvania, and practiced medicine in Maryland before joining the University of Virginia faculty in 1839 where he taught Medicine, Physiology, Obstetrics, and Medical Jurisprudence. He retired from teaching in 1867.

This letter written by Dr. Howard is from Thomas Goode’s book The Invalid’s Guide to the Virginia Hot Springs, and is included in Dr. Burke’s book. It indicates that Dr. Goode solicited correspondence from people who had experiences at the Hot Springs. Dr. Howard wrote a masterful response in which he alternately praised the waters and urged caution, giving reasons why the treatment might fail. While he advised his patients with certain ailments to avail themselves of the Hot Springs for relief, he said that proper preparation and regimen were necessary for success. He wrote that the potency of the waters could cause harm as well as benefit, a knowledgeable doctor’s advice was essential, and the very act of getting to the location could make a patient worse.

University of Virginia, Dec. 10, 1841.
Dr. Thomas Goode:
Dear Sir, — I have just received your letter of the 7th inst., soliciting my opinion and experience of the remedial effects of the waters of the Hot Springs in chronic diarrhea and difficult menstruation.
In reply to your inquiry, I may state that for many years, but most particularly for the last ten, and during my residence in Baltimore, I have advised all my patients who were afflicted with chronic diarrhea or painful menstruation, that resisted medical treatment, to avail themselves of the medical powers of the Hot Springs; and I do not now recollect of an instance, when the proper preparatory measures and indispensable auxiliary regimen to the use of the Baths were strictly observed and persevered in, in which my expectations of the efficacy of the waters were disappointed.
It is true that a few cases have occurred in which the patient returned to me without receiving any relief, and some have claimed my attention in which the disease appeared aggravated: but in all these cases it was ascertained, that either the preparatory measures necessary to be adopted previous to taking the baths, or the auxiliary regimen to be used simultaneously with bathing, were not rigidly adhered to.
I feel constrained by the result of my observation and experience during my visit to the Hot Springs, to state, that I believe that those waters are so potent for injury as well as benefit to those afflicted with chronic diarrhea or painful menstruation, that none such should use them without the advice of a physician, conversant with their qualities. And physicians, when recommending this watering-place to their patients, should make them aware, that travelling and its incidents sometimes convert chronic into acute affectations, and that a regimen and course of medical treatment, very proper in the former state, may be highly improper in the latter condition.
I am respectfully yours,
H. Howard, M.D. {Goode, 60-1}

Thomas Goode, The Invalid’s Guide to the Virginia Hot Springs, Richmond: P.D. Bernard, 1846.

Image Credits

{1} University of Virginia Visual History Collection, Image Filename: prints16157. Accessed July 21, 2009.

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