Keep the person scrupulously clean; change the clothing worn next to the skin (which should be flannel) often. Don't economize in washing bills. A cold bath every morning for very vigorous persons, or once or twice a week and thorough rubbing with a coarse towel or flesh-brush mornings when bath is not taken, for the less robust, is necessary to keep the functions of the skin in health, and is very invigorating. After warm baths a dash of cold water will prevent chill and "taking cold." In bathing in winter, the shock from cold water is lessened by standing a minute in the cold air after the removal of clothing before applying water.
A very prolific source of disease is defective drainage. In the country, slops and waste water are thrown into the back yard to trickle back into the well and pollute it, or to form a reeking cesspool which poisons the air. In cities, the sewer-connections with houses allow the foul gases to rush back through the waste-pipes to closets or sinks and into the house. Neatness will cure the first, and a flue connecting each system of drainage-pipes with the tallest chimney in the house where a fire is constantly used, will draw off and consume the gases in the second.
It should be remembered that the use of chloride of lime, and other fu-migants, does not destroy filthiness, but only renders it less evident. Cleanliness, fresh air, and sunlight will purify. Cleanliness is a very strong word. Carpets filled with dust or grease, dirty furniture, or walls covered with old paper, defile the atmosphere as much as a refuse heap in the cellar or back yard. A dark house is generally unwholesome and dirty. The sunlight is second only in importance to fresh air. To convince one that light purifies, it is only necessary to go into a darkened room and note the corrupt smell.
Ventilation can not be accomplished by simply letting the pure air in; the bad air must be let out. Open a window at top and bottom, hold a lighted candle in the draft, and see the flame turn outward at the top and inward at the bottom, showing the purifying currents. Windows on opposite sides of the room ventilate still more perfectly. In sleeping rooms, avoid "drafts" when possible, but danger of taking cold from them may be averted by extra clothing. In living-rooms, an open fire-place or grate insures ventilation. The use of close stoves, and close rooms, are the causes of the increased prevalence and fatality, in winter, of small pox, scarlet fever, and other contagious diseases.
Colds are often, if not generally, the result of debility, and are preceded by disordered digestion. Such cases are prevented by a removal of the cause by diet and pure air. Extreme cold or heat, and sudden exposure to cold by passing from a heated room to cold outside air, is very injurious to the old or weak. All such should avoid great extremes and sudden changes. In passing from heated assemblies to the cold air, the mouth should be kept closed, and the breathing done through the nostrils only, so that the cold air may be warmed before reaching the lungs, which have just been immersed in a hot-air bath. The injurious effect of such sudden changes is caused by driving the blood from the surface to the internal organs, producing congestions.
Bad smells mean that decay is going on somewhere. Rotten particles are floating in the air, and penetrating the nostrils and lungs. Their offen-siveness means that they are poison, and will produce sickness and death, or so reduce the tone of the system that ordinarily mild disorders will prove fatal. In all such cases remove the cause when possible. Many of these poisons are given off by the body, and are removed by pure air, as dirt is washed away by water. Soiled or foul air can not purify any more than dirty water will clean dirty clothes. Pure air enters the lungs, becomes charged with waste particles, which are poison if taken back again. An adult spoils one gallon of pure air every minute, or twenty-five flour barrelfuls in a single night, in breathing alone. A lighted gas-burner consumes eleven gallons, and an ordinary stove twenty-five gallons a minute. Think of these facts before sealing up the fire-place, or nailing down the windows for winter.
Let the sunshine into every room in the house. The sunlight is a great purifier. Keep the cellar not only clean and sweet, but give it fresh air and good ventilation, or it will poison the rest of the house.
If one is accustomed to sleeping with windows open, there is no danger of taking cold from the exposure, winter or summer. People who shut up windows to keep out "night air," make a mistake. At night, the only air to breathe is "night air." A bed that has been made up for a week or longer is not fit to sleep in. It has gathered moisture and should be aired. When fixed wash-bowls stand in sleeping-rooms, the waste-pipe should be carefully closed, as sewer gases often escape through them into the room.
Many of the colds which people are said to catch, commence at the feet. To keep these extremities warm, therefore, is to effect an insurance against the almost interminable list of disorders which spring out of a "slight cold." First, never be tightly shod. Boots and shoes, when they fit closely, press against the foot and prevent a free circulation of the blood. When, on the contrary, they do not embrace the foot too tightly the blood gets fair play, and the places left between the leather and the stockings are filled with a comfortable supply of warm air. The second rule is, never to sit in damp shoes. It is often imagined that unless they are positively wet it is not necessary to change them while the feet are at rest. This is a fallacy; for when the least dampness is absorbed into the sole, it is attracted nearer to the foot itself by its own heat, and thus perspiration is dangerously checked. Any person may prove this, by trying the experiment of neglecting this rule, and his feet will become cold and damp after a few moments, although, taking off the shoe and warming it, it will appear quite dry.
Remember that there is no patent medicine or "patent pad," warranted to "cure by absorption," that will absorb "disease half as rapidly as a wet towel wrapped around the body, and covered with a dry flannel. If people were required to pay $10 each for this "valuable secret" there would be no difficulty in getting millions of testimonials to its efficacy. It is too cheap to be popular with people who liked to be humbugged; but when humbugs all fail, try hot and cold water.
One of the most prominent writers on health topics says: "The great practical lesson which I wish to inculcate, to be engraven as on a plate of steel, on the memory of children and youth, young men and women, the mature and the gray-headed: Allow nothing short of fire or endangered life to induce you to resist, for one single moment, nature's alvine call. So far from refusing a call for any reason short of life and death, you should go at the usual time and solicit, and doing so you will have your reward in a degree of healthfulness, and in a length of life, which very few are ever permitted to enjoy. If the love of health and life, or the fear of inducing painful disease can not induce you to adopt the plan I have recommended, there is another argument which, to young gentlemen and young ladies, may appear more convincing - personal cleanliness. [If you suffer yourself to become and remain costive you will smell badly; the breath of a costive child even is scarcely to be endured.] Cold feet, sick headache, piles, fistulas, these, with scores of other diseases, have their first foundations laid in constipation, which itself is infallibly induced by resisting nature's first calls. Reader, let it be your wisdom never to do it again."