December 22, 2013
While the concept of IV saline as fluid replacement was written about, Prior to the 1950’s, I.V. fluid replacement therapy was not widely used.
This equates to people dying from dehydration from all viral or bacterial infections which can lead to diarrhea and/or vomiting; just about any illness.
In addition, 1956 was the year inhaled drugs were formulated for asthma and launched the beginning of life saving asthma treatments in emergency rooms and clinics around the world.
I think it is worth mentioning, the early 1900’s saw death rates from scurvy as high as from just about anything else, including all childhood diseases which led to diarrhea, asthma and dehydration. As death rates began to plummet with the onset of access to vitamin c in the winter, clean water and sewage treatment, so did all death rates from scurvy and and all infectious diseases. In fact, death rates today are what they were already on target for in the late 1950’s or even earlier.
As I have spent years managing patients in emergency rooms, urgent care clinics and in rescue response, it has become appearant, thousands of lives are saved daily across the country because of fluid replacement therapy and nebulized asthma treatments. These very patients would have died years ago without proper fluid replacement and yet, we don’t bother to culture and identify the source of the infection for the average dehydrated patient, we merely treat and send them home after a few hours.
Think about this for a moment. We have considered vaccinations to have saved thousands of lives, but we are basing our presumed death rates on early 1900 numbers, not even late 1950 numbers. And since most children died from dehydration secondary to their illnesses, would they actually go without fluid replacement therapy today? The answer is no, we rarely bother to look for the source of the vomiting or diarrheal illness when someone presents to ERs and clinics across the country, yet these patients would have been mortalities prior to the advent of IV fluid treatment or even good oral rehydration fluids, like the ones I used when I visited Haiti to work in the cholera response clinics.
Access to clean water and good nutrition all year long, goes a long way, but so does access to basic emergency treatment carried out by health care workers. Sound basic care saves more lives than most people realize. Children all over the third world die from diarrhea and dehydration, from many different pathogens, these children need clean water and access to clinics with basic rehydration care, not more multi-billion dollar vaccines and drugs targeting individual pathogens.
Clean water systems and sewage treatment systems are not sexy and shareholders don’t benefit. New Drugs and Vaccines make money for shareholders and the industry, but let’s not loose site of basic needs and access to life saving basics like rehydration.
Next time you meet an emergency medical technician or physician’s assistant, remember, they are saving more lives than the pharmaceutical industry would have you believe.