Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/15

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5
THE REMEDIES OF NATURE.

scopic parasites, that multiply like the spores of a prolific mushroom. The first development of these lung-devourers would seem to amount to a sentence of speedy death; yet their fecundity hardly exceeds that of certain intestinal parasites, and the vis vitæ has methods of her own for dealing with such foes, and is ever ready to begin the battle for life, on the sole condition that we do not complicate the difficulties of the undertaking by counteracting her efforts or by perpetuating the influence of the original cause. Cease to feed the lungs with azotic gases, and Dr. Koch's animalcula will starve and disappear as surely as maw-worms will starve and disappear if we change a pork and sourcrout diet for bread and apples.

About the comparative advantages of a dry and cold or moist and tropical climate, opinions are divided, with a preponderance of arguments in favor of the former; but so much is certain, that in all latitudes of the temperate zone the disease known as pulmonary consumption is caused by the breathing of vitiated air and can be subdued by out-door exercise. In certain cases cured would be an ambiguous term. The respiration of vitiated (azotized and dust-impregnated) air results in the corruption of the pulmonary tissues, and finally in a process of disintegration that fills the structure of the lungs with ulcerous cavities. These cavities often cicatrize, but it is not probable that they can be entirely healed, i. e., that the wasted tissues can be reproduced. Yet in all but its last stages the progress of the disease can be arrested by out-door life alone. The voice of instinct adds its testimony to the teaching of science. In the language of our senses, every feeling of discomfort suggests its own remedy. If the proximity of a glowing stove begins to roast your shins, the alarmed nerves cry out—not for patent ointments, not for anti-caustic liniments and "pain-killers," but for a lower temperature. Nothing else will permanently appease them. Millions of prisoners, school-children, and factory-slaves, pine for lung-food as a starving man yearns for bread; and that hunger can not be stilled with cough-pills, but only with fresh air.

There are adjuvant remedies which will be noticed hereafter, but their co-operation is not indispensable. Without a sufficient supply of wholesome food, without warm clothes, without domestic comforts, under the disadvantage even of excessive hardships and protracted fasts, a three months' mountain-excursion, with or without tents, will cure all the symptoms of the disease with the exception of an accelerated pulse and a panting respiration during active exercise. Canadian trappers who leave their supply-camp with a bad cough, get rid of it on the fifth or sixth day "out." They may get foot-sore, and, if game is scarce, hipped and homesick, but the feeling of haleness about the chest continues. Night-frosts do not affect it. Fatigues rather improve it. They may wake up with a feeling of frost-cramp from their chilblained toes to their shivering knees, but the lungs are at ease: no cough, no asthmatic distress, no stitch-like pains, no night-fever.