Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/745

This page has been validated.
725
PHYSICAL EDUCATION.

reaction by diverting sports; improvise hunting expeditions and mountain-excursions, or Olympic games; between exciting diversions and sound sleep the toper will forget his tipple, and every day thus gained will lessen the danger of a relapse.

It can not be denied that poison-habits (the opium-habit as well as "alcoholism") are to some degree hereditary. The children of confirmed inebriates should be carefully guarded, not only against objective temptations, but against the promptings of a peculiar disposition which I have found to be a (periodical) characteristic of their mental constitution. They lack that spontaneous gayety which constitutes the almost misfortune-proof happiness of normal children, and, without being positively peevish or melancholy, their spirits seem to be clouded by an apathy which yields only to strong external excitants. But healthful amusements and healthy food rarely fail to restore the tone of the mind, and, even before the age of puberty, the manifestations of a more buoyant temper will prove that the patient has outgrown the hereditary hebetude, and with it the need of artificial stimulation.

Chlorosis, or green-sickness, is a malignant form of that dyspeptic pallor and languor which one half of our city girls owe to their sedentary occupations in ill-ventilated rooms. The complaint is almost unknown in rural districts, and the best cure is a mountain-excursion, afoot or on horseback; the next best a course of "calisthenics," a plentiful and varying vegetable diet, fun, frequent baths, and plenty of sleep. "Tonic" drugs are sure to aggravate the evil. It is only too well known that a fit of nervous depression can be momentarily relieved by a cup of strong green tea. The stimulus goads the weary system into a spasm of morbid activity: the vital strength, sorely needed for a reconstructive process (one of whose phases was the nervous depression), has now to be used to repel a pernicious intruder; and this convulsion of the organism, in its effort to rid itself of the narcotic poison, is mistaken for a sign of returning vigor—the patient "feels so much better." But, as soon as the irritant has been eliminated, the vital energy—diminished now by the expulsive effort—has to resume the work of reconstruction under less favorable circumstances; the patient now "feels so much worse"—by just as much as the reaction following upon the morbid excitement has since increased the nervous depression. In the same way precisely a "tonic" medicine operates upon the exhausted organism, and in the same way its effect—a morbid and transient stimulation—is mistaken for a permanent invigoration.

Pulmonary consumption, in its early stages, is perhaps the most curable of all chronic diseases. The records of the dissecting-room prove that in numerous cases lungs, wasted to one half of their normal size, have been healed, and, after a perfect cicatrization of the tuberculous ulcers, have for years performed all the essential functions of