The Science of Health - Personal Hygiene - Baths - Benefit of the Cold Bath - The Ideal Bath - How to Soften Hard Water - Hygienic Care of the Hair ygiene, or the science of health, has come to H be regarded as one of the most important subjects of modern times. We are all becoming alive to the fact that the truest economy for the individual, as for the community, is to keep health up to a high standard.
In the saying that "prevention is better than cure," we have a platitude which is at the same time full of commonsense. We know something already concerning the subject of health, but if we knew all that there is to know about hygiene, and applied our information, we should lower the death-rate fifty per cent., and abolish epidemic diseases altogether. More than half the ills we suffer from are the result of ignorance. We should all be hale and hearty at a hundred if we lived a truly hygienic life.
It is the duty of the housewife to have a living and practical knowledge of general hygiene. In its simplest sense hygiene is but another word for cleanliness, and if we could impress the need of clean food, clean air, clean rooms, and clean habits upon everybody we should go a long way towards the prevention of disease. By applying hygienic knowledge to the care of the skin, hair, and teeth, complexion ills would largely disappear, and we should no longer go in fear of becoming a toothless generation. By the provision of hygiene in the home we would help to do away with infectious disease; whilst hygiene, as applied to diet, is one of the most important factors of health to-day.
I will deal with the subject of personal hygiene first of all. Its practice makes not only for health, but for good looks, or at least an attractive appearance, and that is a thing no woman can afford to neglect. The proper care of the skin will save the expenditure of vast sums upon complexion lotions. The skin requires daily attention to keep it in good condition. This does not necessarily entail plunging into a cold bath when the temperature is at freezing point. But it does mean that the whole skin should be washed over once daily.
For hygienic purposes there are three kinds of baths: warm, cold, and tepid. Hot baths are useful because they increase the excretory function of the skin, and stimulate the glands to renewed activity, and thus get rid of waste products from the body. The blood of civilised man or woman is more readily poisoned than was the case generations ago when our primitive ancestors did not habitually overclothe, and had to exercise their muscles before they could obtain their rations. Thus our skin requires more attention because poisons are more likely to accumulate in the body.
A warm bath once or twice a week and a daily tepid sponge will answer the purpose for ordinary healthy people; whilst for certain conditions of ill-health Turkish baths, ordered by the doctor, are very valuable from the hygienic standpoint. Turkish and hot-air baths have been popular for hundreds of years, and more than three thousand years ago the Greeks utilised the natural hot springs for bathing and healing purposes. The warm bath is more cleansing than the cold or tepid bath, and it is also more soothing, but it should never be taken
Those who can enjoy a cold bath should certainly take it every day. It is one of the best health measures that exists. It stimulates all the functions of the body, and makes the skin much more resistant to cold. Anyone who can take a cold bath all the year round will find that fewer clothes are necessary for purposes of warmth, and will probably be largely free from cold in the head. At the same time, there is very little to say in favour of the "hardening" process of cold baths. In some cases the bath is a positive danger, and serious chills result from certain people taking cold baths in winter.
Can You Take a Cold Bath?
How are you to know when a cold bath is advantageous or the reverse? Ask yourself, first, if you enjoy it, or if you dread the plunge into the cold water on getting out of bed.
Secondly, and this is the real test, are you depressed or exhilarated afterwards? People who feel better after a bath and are soon in a glow with plenty of energy and vitality are safe to continue the practice all the year round. But if you feel shivery, depressed, not very fit after dressing, then you have not sufficient reacting power, and your circulation will suffer all day. The effect of a cold bath is to drive the blood suddenly from the skin to the interior of the body. Afterwards the "reaction" takes place. The blood flows outwards through the skin again, which is immediately in a glow from increased blood supply, and one feels warm. When this reaction does not take place the internal organs are apt to be congested, the surfaces of the body are cold, and the person is liable to chill.
There have been many controversies on the subject of baths. There was first the theory that people should get hardened to cold baths in midwinter. Then somebody remarked that constant baths had ill effects because they removed the natural oil from the skin, and made people liable to chill. Both ideas are too extreme to appeal to reasoning people, and there is no more need to take a cold bath if it makes us miserable than there is to do without baths altogether.
Most people will find the following plan best. Take a warm bath, followed by a cold sponge, or stand in warm water and sponge with cold. This latter measure, if associated with a warm bath once or twice a week, is sufficient for all hygienic purposes. The skin, of course, should be thoroughly soaped with a bath-glove in order to cleanse the pores, and the value of the bath is increased tenfold if the skin is rubbed dry with a rough towel until it glows.
In some places the hardness of the water is a drawback. In such cases rain water should be procured if possible, and certainly for the face and neck, as the tendency of hard water containing lime or magnesium salts is to make the skin tender and rough. There are various water softeners which can be procured, whilst boiling the water brings down the precipitated lime which is held in solution, and which is largely responsible for the "hardness." Then certain soaps can be obtained which are more suitable for using with hard water, and a little ammonia added to the bath helps to lather the soap and soften the water. Muslin bags full of bran or oatmeal are toilet devices that can be put in the bath; whilst borax has both a cleansing and softening effect.
The next point with regard to personal hygiene is the care of the hair. Neglect is the chief cause of falling hair and baldness amongst both men and women. The best recipe for a good head of hair is to keep it clean. Regular brushing and regular washing must be practised. Hair that is hygienically neglected is very quickly susceptible to the scalp microbes which cause dandruff. So let the hair be brushed daily for fifteen minutes, and massage the scalp two or three times a week. This stimulates the scalp, increases the flow of blood to the part, and keeps the glands in working order.
The hair should be washed perhaps once in three weeks in soft water and liquid soap, consisting of equal parts of soft soap and rectified spirits. This is splendid for cleansing the scalp and preventing dandruff.
The wearing of heavy hats, hair pads and frames, when they are of a cheap variety and ill-ventilated, detract considerably from the hygienic condition of the hair and scalp. Whenever possible, an air and sun bath should be given to the hair, and hats at least should be light, and only worn when necessary. When the hair comes out the cause should be investigated early, and the condition stopped before it becomes chronic. The hygiene of the hair includes, at the same time, the care of the brushes, which require regular washing once or twice a week in warm water to which a little ammonia has been added.