Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/17

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
7
THE REMEDIES OF NATURE.

the cool breath of the night-wind becomes a chief condition of a good night's rest, and the closing of the bedroom windows creates a feeling of uneasiness not unlike the discomfort induced by an attempt to sleep with your head under the blankets. In the sleeping-dens of the French village-taverns, where, after September, the window-sashes are actually nailed down, the children of a hygienic home would pine for a draught of oxygen as a sweltering traveler thirsts after fresh water.

Besides open windows, Dio Lewis recommends an open fire-place and a good wood-fire all night; but that is a matter of taste: an extra blanket will serve the same purpose, and the danger of damp bedclothes[1] in winter has been as strangely exaggerated as have the perils of cold drinking-water in midsummer.

In stormy nights a half-closed "rain-shutter" (a window-blind with broad bars) will keep the room perfectly dry without excluding the air. If the mercury sinks below zero, close every window in the house. Intense cold is a disinfectant, that purifies even the air of the hide-covered dungeons where the natives of the polar regions pass the long winter nights. In the dog-days, on the other hand, do not be satisfied with anything less than a thorough draught; open every window in and around the bedroom. Consumption has been recognized as a zymotic disease, and sultry heat favors the development of all morbific germs.

Where the prejudice against open windows has been cured, the cold-air superstition often lingers in the form of a repugnance to outdoor exercise in winter. After the last of October thousands of convalescents suspend their morning rambles, and the hectic symptoms soon reappear. The aggravation of the disease may scare the patients into a warmer climate, but most of them would rather breathe sickroom miasma than the winter air of a high latitude. The truth is, that the prophylactic influence of the out-door atmosphere depends less upon its temperature than upon its purity, and for the open-air treatment of lung-diseases a cold, clear winter morning is more propitious than a dusty summer day. The contrast is shown in the effect. A single hour's exercise in the skating-ring or under a snow-covered wood-shed, a sleigh-ride, a brisk walk through an ice-glittering park, will ease the respiratory organs more effectually than a week of languid rambles through the dust and heat of an Italian campagna.

In larger cities, especially, a good frost defectates the lung-poisoning effluvia of the slum-alleys, while heat aggravates their offensiveness. In the cities of our Atlantic seaboard July is about the most unfragrant month in the year, and August the dustiest. Soon after the summer solstice wealthy invalids should, therefore, pack their

  1. "I shall not attempt to explain why damp clothes occasion cold, rather than wet ones, because I doubt the fact; I imagine that neither the one nor the other contributes to that effect, and that the causes of 'colds' are totally independent of wet, and even of cold" (Benjamin Franklin's "Essays," p. 216).