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2 Now at their commencements, it is easy to recognize at once what is an acute disease, and what a chronic one, not only as regards those which take a uniform course, but also when the course is variable. For when severe paroxysms and pains are causing[p. 223] distress without intermission, the disease is acute: it becomes evident that the future course will be prolonged when there are but slight pains and fever, and when there are long intervals between the paroxysms, and there are in addition the signs which have been described in the preceding book. It is also to be noted whether the disease is increasing, or stationary, or lessening, because some remedies are suitable for increasing, more for declining maladies; and when an acute fever is increasing in urgency, remedies which are suitable in decreasing affections are to be tried rather during the remissions. A disease is increasing in urgency when pains and paroxysms occur with more severity, and when they both recur at shorter intervals, and desist later than before. And, in chronic diseases too, even if they do not present such characteristic signs, it may be recognized that the affection is increasing: if sleep is irregular; if digestion deteriorates; if the stools become more foul; the sense duller; the mind more sluggish; if a feeling of cold, or of heat, runs through the body, if the body becomes more pale. But opposite signs mark a decline in the disease. . . . In acute diseases, moreover, the patient is to be given food after more delay, and not until the paroxysm is already declining so that its force may be broken primarily by the withholding of nutriment; in chronic diseases, earlier, so that it may support the patient for the duration of his coming illness. But if sometimes, not the whole body, but a part only, is affected, still the support of the strength of the whole body rather than the curing by itself of the part diseased is of more importance. It makes a great difference also[p. 225] whether from the commencement the patient has been treated correctly or incorrectly, because treatment has less advantage in those cases in which a course has been persisted in without effort. If a patient lives through indiscreet treatment with his strength unimpaired, an appropriate treatment may restore him forthwith. But as I commenced (II.2) with those symptoms which show some signs of impending illness, I shall make a beginning as to treatment by noticing the same period. If, therefore, any of the signs then referred to occur, the best treatment is rest and abstinence; if anything at all is to be drunk, let it be water, and it is sufficient for this to be continued sometimes for one day, sometimes, when alarming signs persist, for two days; on the day following the fast, food should be taken sparingly, and water drunk; the next day even wine, and then in turn, on alternate days, water and wine, until all anxiety is at an end. For often in this way a severe disease is dispersed while it is impending. And many deceive themselves with the hope of getting rid of the languor straightaway on the first day, either by exercise, or by a bath, or by a purge, or by an emetic, or by sweating, or by drinking wine: not but that such a procedure may succeed or not disappoint, but more often it fails, and abstinence by itself is a remedy without any risk; especially since it also admits of being modified in accordance with the degree of apprehension, and if the indications are of the slighter kind, it is enough to abstain from wine alone, its withdrawal being more advantageous than if something were subtracted from the food; if they are of somewhat greater severity, it is easy to limit the drink to water, and at[p. 227] the same time to withdraw meat from the diet, sometimes also to use less bread than usual, and to be content with moist food, especially pot-herbs; and it is sufficient to abstain entirely from food and wine, and from all bodily movement, only when serious symptoms have given rise to alarm. Nor is there a doubt that scarcely anyone falls ill who has hidden nothing but has countered disease in good time by these measures.
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