It is not so many years since the importance of fresh air as regards health was first discovered. In the days of our parents open windows, save during very warm weather, were said to be unhealthy, because of the almost universal fear of chills and damp.
Ten years ago people who slept all night with wide-open windows were considered cranks by their acquaintances. Even to-day the vast majority of people have an inherent dislike of draughts. Most of us require to be taught to appreciate fresh, cold air as the most valuable health measure that exists. Abundant fresh air and light will do more to prevent illness of every description than any other condition-except perfectly digested food.
One of the health maxims that every man and woman ought to lay to heart should certainly be "live in the open air as much as possible." Much ill health, in the form of lung ailments and general debility, is caused simply and solely by poisoned air. Even those who are out of doors as much as possible, and thus compelled to breathe pure air for many hours all day, sleep in poorly-ventilated rooms at night. For eight hours out of the twenty-four they are probably cooped in a bed-room with the window open, if at all, merely two inches from the top.
So much has been said about ventilation in previous parts of Every Woman's Encyclopaedia that we shall not go into the matter here, but every woman who values her health and good looks should accustom herself to sleep with the window pulled well down, until gradually wide-open windows at night can be tolerated all the year round. Plenty of clothing is all that is necessary to safeguard one from chill in winter.
1. Wide-open windows, so that, in the house, fresh air is ensured day and night.
2. The determination to live out of doors as much as possible.
Those who live in the country have no excuse for evading the plan of living out of doors during the summer months. Whenever possible a verandah or balcony should be built, if there is no place suitable for meals in the open air. The indoor life led by the majority of people in this country is largely a matter of habit. We have got into the " habit " of eating in close dining-rooms and of sitting in over-furnished drawing-rooms, when it would be the simplest matter in the world to follow the healthier practice of people in the East-and adopt " verandah life."
It is true that the heat in India and China compels people to rest and eat, and even sleep, in the open air. But for many months in the year we have an ideal climate, and people have taken breakfast on a balcony in December without being the least inconvenienced by the cold.
In the first place, plenty of warm wraps are necessary. Secondly, any verandah or balcony should have a southern aspect, and be protected on either side from cold winds. It is wonderful how soon one gets acclimatised to out-door life, and all who have tried the open air life speak of improved health, and say that they become very intolerant of sitting indoors in an atmosphere which is even faintly suggestive of stuffiness.
In the treatment of consumption the open-air life is a very important factor. When one member of a family is threatened with this terrible disease the doctor sometimes compels all the members to follow an open-air regimen in the way of sitting, eating, and even sleeping in the fresh air. The result is invariably better health for everyone, and an immunity from colds, which always surprises those who have suffered from catarrh all their lives previous!v. Sunshine and fresh air kill germs of catarrh, just as they destroy the microbes of consumption. If we sit indoors we are breathing air that has been breathed before. At every inspiration we take in fresh air which consists of oxygen, nitrogen, and a little carbonic acid gas. With every expiration we send out nitrogen unchanged, far less oxygen than we take in, and a larger quantity of carbonic acid gas. So that with every breath the amount of the carbonic acid gas is increased in a room that is not efficiently ventilated with wide-open windows and an open fireplace. In addition to the carbonic acid gas breathed air contains a number of impurities which cause the unpleasant odour of foul air. When we are indoors it is unlikely that we have abundance of absolutely fresh air. Out of doors, in an atmosphere of clean air, we draw into our lungs with every breath the life-giving and life-sustaining oxygen so essential to health.
Fresh Air and Good Looks
Every woman should realise the importance of breathing pure air and living the out-door life from the health and beauty point of view. The unhealthy person is never really beautiful. There is something undeniably attractive about a healthy, vital human being. By sitting more or less indoors all the time for a month, an enormous difference to the nervous, physical, and spiritual health of anyone would be apparent. Take the delicate, nervy woman and make her live an out-door life, and you will be amazed at the result. Out-door occupations and hobbies should be chosen, whenever possible, for those who are sedentary in habit. Meals should be taken out of doors for a good many months in the year, and, if one's out-door dining-room is protected from rain and cold winds, there is no reason why it should not be used all the year round.
Over-coddling is one of the greatest evils of modern times-we over-clothe, over-eat, and over-heat ourselves. The healthy human being who is energetic requires fires far less than he imagines. When people are ill, or advancing in years, the circulation is not so good, and warmth is a very real necessity. But the young and the healthy can easily accustom themselves to a more natural life, which would improve the health and vigour of the race. There is an article on the "Open-air Bedroom" in the first part of Every Woman's Encyclopaedia (page 15), and it should be re-read now that summer is approaching, the ideal season for starting so excellent a health measure.
But what of town people who have no garden available for out-door meals and sleep? In America, during the warm weather, the family sleep on verandahs, porches, balconies, if they belong to the order of people who have discovered the relationship of fresh air to health. When a balcony or a porch is not obtainable, the next best thing is simply to open all windows to their fullest extent. For this purpose casement windows are always to be preferred to those which will only open up and down, leaving perhaps a foot of entering air above and below. Meals should be taken beside an open window, and open-air pursuits should be cultivated which will compel you to go out of doors as soon as possible after getting home from work.
Every woman could improve her health by laying the three following rules to heart:
Flush the house with fresh air.
And your reward will be:
Improved health and vitality.
An immunity from catarrh of every sort, because the healthier mucous membranes can resist microbic infection.