Wet Sheet Treatment

, March 25, 2015 in Therapeutics

There are two popular variations of using the wet sheet treatment.

  1. During the 1970’s I worked in a Chicago hospital emergency room. Often in the late night hours a mother would come in clutching her feverish baby. The child would be examined and a temperature taken. If the child was too hot (39 – 40 C) it would be laid down on the exam table and stripped naked. A round or three of treatments would ensue. A flannel bath blanket would be soaked in tepid (neither hot nor cold) water. The sheet is wrung out so it is damp and not dripping. Place the bath sheet one layer thick over infants & toddlers and double layer over larger children leaving the face uncovered. A cool face cloth can be applied to cheeks and forehead. In the event of febrile seizure be sure first that it is not epilepsy or some other neurological condition. Remain calm and turn the child on their side in the “recovery position” and gently assure them that they are going to be fine soon. Be alert for vomiting or coughing of thick sputum that may be aspirated. A seizure may last up to five minutes and will not cause permanent neurological damage. The wet sheet will absorb the body heat and dissipate the heat through evaporative heat loss. If the temperature remains too high another round of treatment may be performed. Remove and remoisten the sheet in tepid water and repeat the process. Each round should take no more than 15 to 20 minutes to reduce the temperature to a low-grade fever. The goal is only to bring the fever under control. Fevers are a natural event of the body trying to adjust the habitat to be inhospitable to a virus that cannot tolerate higher temperatures. When the child can take fluids, a gentle diaphoretic like Mentha piperita, Nepeta cataria, or Sambuccus flos. may be drunk. An infant that is refusing fluids due to nausea can be administered a clyster of approximately 100 mL of Nepeta cataria tea to aid in rehydration and diaphoresis.
  2. The second method is for bringing on a fever and is less often used as it is for more hearty souls. Whilst the child is soaking in a hot bath a sheet is dipped in ice-cold water and slightly wrung out. On a bed with a plastic covering (like a shower curtain) a dry wool blanket and a dry flannel sheet are laid out. The child gets out of the tub and is wrapped in the cold sheet and is laid down on the bed. The dry sheet and blanket are wrapped around the child in a comfortable manner. At first the child will feel very cold as the peripheral blood proceeds to the core. Shivering begins soon, then a rebound occurs and warm blood returns to the surface and a fever is “ripened” and diaphoresis commences. Once a good fever temperature is reached the child is allowed to unwrap and sweat it out. This is an old Thomsonian / pioneer method and perhaps we are a little better equipped to ripen a fever today with herbal diaphoretics.