Every man in charge of a boys’ camp should have a knowledge of certain physiological facts, so as to be able to make a fair diagnosis of pain and disease. The pulse, taken at the wrist, is a fair index of the condition of the body. In taking the pulse-beat, do so with the fingers, and not with the thumb, as the beating of the artery in the thumb may confuse. Pulse rate is modified with age, rest, exercise, position, excitements, and elevation. High elevation produces a more rapid pulse. The normal rate of boys in their teens is about 80 to 84 beats per minute. An increase not accounted for by one of the above reasons usually means fever, a rise of 6 beats in pulse usually being equivalent to a rise of 1 degree. Often more important than the rate, however, is the quality of the pulse. Roughly, the feebler the pulse, the more serious the condition of the individual. Irregularity in the rate may be a serious sign, and when it is noticed a doctor should be immediately called. Failure to find the artery should not necessarily cause uneasiness, as by trying on himself, the director may see that the taking of the pulse is often a difficult undertaking.
The tongue is a very misleading guide to the patient’s condition, and no definite rule about its appearance can be laid down. Other signs, such as temperature, general conditions, localization of pain, etc., are more accurate, and to the total result of such observations the appearance of the tongue adds little.
The normal temperature of the human body by mouth is about 98.4 degrees. Variations between 98 degrees and 99 degrees are not necessarily significant of disease. A reliable clinical thermometer should be used. Temperature is generally taken in the mouth. Insert the bulb of the thermometer well under the boy’s tongue. Tell him to close his lips, not his teeth, and to breathe through his nose. Leave it in the mouth about three or four minutes. Remove, and, after noting temperature, rinse it in cold water, dry it with a clean, towel, and shake the mercury down to 95 degrees. It will then be ready for use next time. Never return a thermometer to its case unwashed.
Pain is an indication that there is something wrong with the body that should receive attention. Some boys are more sensitive to pain than others, particularly boys of a highly strung, delicate, nervous nature. Most people, however, think too much of their pains. Most pains to which boys fall heir are due to trouble in the stomach or intestines, or to fevers. Many pains that boys feel mean very little. They are often due to a sore or strained muscle or nerve. A hot application or massage will often bring relief.
Sharply localized pain, except as the result of external injury, is not common among healthy boys, and, if found, particularly in the well-known appendix area, and if accompanied by other disquieting signs (temperature, pulse, etc.), should receive medical attention.