Venerable, old nurses were taught that fevers were a destructive response that required immediate intervention to bring the body temperature back to that magic number of 98.6F or 37C. Since there were few real cures for much of anything back in the good old days, rigid authoritarian protocols, whether they worked or not, were established to control the chaotic world of febrile hospitalized patients.
Temperatures of all patients on the ward were routinely checked first thing in the morning with glass mercury thermometers. We had one complete class session on the proper way of shaking thermometers down. It's all in the wrist snap. Fevers did not follow a rigid time schedule and could spike rapidly just about any time of the day or night. It was easy to miss fevers with routine schedules because they could rise and fall with reckless abandon within a very brief time frame.
Protocol called for cultures for temperatures over 101F even if the cause was suspected to be neurologic and their was no sign of sepsis. Fevers climbing to that dreaded 102F threshold triggered a series of unpleasant and down right miserable interventions for suffering patients. Denial exists on both sides of the bedside rail and lots of compassionate nurses reported thermometer readings of 101.8 to put a halt or delay to some of the more miserable interventions to drop temperatures. Hyporeportinosis in it's finest glory.
Alcohol sponge baths were another weapon in the armamentarium to battle fevers. Equal parts of water and 70% isopropyl alcohol were combined in a bath basin. After placing axillary and groin icepacks the nurse swabbed the patient's entire body with the alcohol laced cooling solution. The shivering induced by the strategically place ice packs was bad enough, but the fumes from the evaporative cooling action of isopropyl alcohol was even worse. I'm certain the shivering and hacking cough produced enough muscular activity to counteract any of the cooling attempts. Some old nurses replicated the experience of greenhouse workers by borrowing misting bottles from housekeeping and spritzing the febrile patient with a toxic mist of alcohol and water.
Introducing ice water into just about any available orifice was another hoary nursing intervention favored by those practitioners with a masochistic vein. Nasogastric tubes were swiftly passed and flooded with boluses of ice water. Miss Bruiser would rest her oversized meat hook of a hand on the patient's epigastrum as the frigid water infused and arrogantly nod her head, "Ahh..he feels cooler already." It was always a mystery to me how she could feel past the barrier of the stomach wall, abdominal muscles, fat, and skin, but it was never prudent to question Miss Bruiser or her whacky methods.
Just about any ailment had a specific enema treatment and fevers were no exception. Febrile patients were subjected to backside buffoonery that entailed ice water enematizations. This approach from the rear did seem to reduce fevers, but I always suspected it was limited to the localized cooling of sphincter muscles when temperatures were measured with rectal temperatures. I always had the notion if Miss Bruiser could catch a glimpse of the patient's misery filled facial response to this frigid intrusion that she would temper or soften her approach to patients. Fat chance of this occurring, Miss Bruiser's field of view was limited to the icy enema tip and it's intended target.
Asking questions of old time nurses about the science behind their crude interventions could land an innocent student in a heap of trouble. Fever interventions were largely based on empirical notions and asking to see supporting data was seen as an indirect way of telling the person they really did not know what they were doing. Both parties full well knew there was no science to support their dubious activities and asking for the data when there was obviously none, was seen as rubbing salt in the wound.