CATARRH (from ______, to flow down) is a term employed to describe a state of irritation of the mucous membrane of the air passages, or what is called in popular language a cold. This complaint, so prevalent in damp and cold weather, usually begins as a nasal catarrh or coryza, with a feeling of weight about the forehead and some degree of difficulty in breathing through the nose, increased on lying down. Fits of sneezing accompanied with a profuse watery discharge from the nostrils and eyes soon follow, while the sense of smell and to some extent that of taste become considerably impaired. There is usually present some amount of sore throat and of bronchial irritation, causing hoarseness and cough. Sometimes the vocal apparatus becomes so much inflamed (laryngeal catarrh) that temporary loss of voice results. There is always more or less feverishness and discomfort, and frequently an extreme sensitiveness to cold. After two or three days the symptoms begin to abate, the discharge from the nostrils and chest becoming thicker and of purulent character, and producing when dislodged consider-able relief to the breathing. On the other hand the catarrh may assume a more severe aspect and pass into some form of pulmonary inflammation (see BRONCHITIS).
A peculiar catarrhal affection occasionally occurs, in an epidemic form, to which the name Influenza is applied (see INFLUENZA).
Many remedies have been proposed with the view of cutting short a catarrh, but none of them are infallible, even where they can be safely employed. In some cases an opiate taken at the outset proves effectual for this end, but as often it will be found to fail. Entire abstinence from liquids of every kind for a period of forty-eight hours has been recommended as sufficient to cure any catarrh, but few will be found willing to submit to such a regimen. Many persons appear to think that they will get rid of a cold most quickly by continuing to go about, and, happily, in the majority of such cases, no harm results. Nevertheless it is more than probable that by a brief confinement to a warm room and the employment of means to promote perspiration (such as Dover's powder, along with a warm or vapour bath) speedier relief will be obtained ; and at all events the evil consequences attendant upon a " neglected cold," which are so familiar to the experience of every physician, will be obviated. Local applications, in the form of inhalation of the vapour of iodine, turpentine, or ammonia, sometimes relieve the uncomfortable feelings in the head. Lately the use of a snuff composed of the trisnitrate of bismuth has been strongly recommended as affording marked relief in nasal catarrh. Where attacks of catarrh are of frequent occurrence no more useful prophylactic will be found than the habitual employment of the cold bath.
The term catarrh is now used in medical nomenclature in a still wider sense than that above mentioned, being employed to describe a state of irritation of any mucous surface in the body which is accompanied with an abnormal discharge of its natural secretion, hence the terms gastric catarrh, intestinal catarrh, &c.