Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/384

This page has been validated.
370
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

a current of air blowing directly on my head and shoulders; sitting entirely naked in a draught, on a very cold, damp night in the fall, for fifteen minutes before getting into bed; wearing cotton night-shirt and sleeping under light bed-covers on the night following the use of flannel gown and heavy-weight bedclothes; rising from bed on a cold, rainy morning, and sitting naked for an hour, writing, and then putting on shirt and trousers only, the shirt almost saturated with rain and the trousers quite damp, from hanging by the window—these and similar experiments I have tried repeatedly, but without catching cold: I become cold, and become warm again, that is all.[1]

On the other hand, changing the nature of my experiments, going back to my old habits as to diet the indulgence of what we call a "generous" diet—the universal mixed diet of the people, viz., fish, flesh, fowl, with the hot, stimulating, and greasy condiments almost invariably associated with this class of food, together with pastry, puddings, and sauces, coffee, etc.—I have found no difficulty in accumulating a "cold," and within a reasonable length of time—the time depending upon the degree of my over-indulgence as to frequency and amount—although, now, a part of the programme consisted in taking the most extreme care to avoid everything in the way of "exposures," as this term is commonly applied—keeping the feet dry and warm, paying the utmost attention to wraps, etc., etc. Indeed, my own experience and observation satisfy me of the truth, and furnish ample explanation for it, of the oft-expressed opinion that those people who wrap the most and take the most care in such respects are the greatest sufferers from "colds"; and, theoretically, this would be the logical deduction from a consideration of the simple facts taught even in the primary text-books on physiology: certainly, the less clothing one wears and the more he is exposed to cold, the nearer he is carried, metaphorically speaking, to the polar regions, where surfeit-fever is unknown! Said an observing friend to me, "I am apt to catch cold when I put on my winter flannels—why is it?" My explanation was satisfactory to him, for he was a bright man; but, in general, it is difficult for people to comprehend the fact or the principle involved therein.[2]

  1. Accidents often cause worse exposures than any I have enumerated above, without exciting this disorder: for example, upon the occasion of a shipwreck on a bleak, Northern coast, in winter, not one of the stranded mariners or passengers would have "a cold" in consequence. Indeed, a sufficient degree of exposure to hunger and cold would tend to "cure" every case of this disorder that previously existed on shipboard; and if the exposure should not extend beyond measure—beyond the power of endurance of an individual or the entire group—no sickness of any sort would result.
  2. For the past two winters the writer has worn no under-flannels. He removed them in midwinter (1881-82) as a part of the treatment for "a cold!" The balance of the curative regimen consisted in a quick sponge-bath, succeeded by an air-bath with friction for fifteen minutes in a cool room, abstaining from food for the entire day, though the appetite was craving, engaging in active exercise in the open air. By night the feverish symptoms had disappeared, the oppressed lungs were relieved, hoarseness scarcely noticeable in a word, convalescence established.