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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/649

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631
THE REMEDIES OF NATURE.

that their boys would desert and sleep in a ditch rather than endure the horrors of an air-tight sweat-box; so the windows are partially-opened. The long, warm days also offer increased opportunities for out-door rambles. In midsummer, therefore, Nature rallies once more. But not always. There are people whose prejudices can not be shaken by experience, and in their households a perennial system of air-poisoning overcomes the redeeming tendencies of out-door life, as the subtile mixtures of La Brinvilliers overcame the iron constitution of her last husband. Their children snuffle the year round; no cough-medicine avails, no flannels and wrappers, even in the dog-days; and the evil is ascribed to "dampness," when the cold-air theory becomes at last too evidently preposterous.

To an unprejudiced observer, though, that theory is equally untenable in the coldest month of the year. No man can freeze himself into a catarrh. In cold weather the hospitals of our Northern cities sometimes receive patients with both feet and both hands frozen, with frost-bitten ears and frost-sore eyes, but without a trace of a catarrhal affection. Duck-hunters may wade all day in a frozen swamp without affecting the functions of their respiratory organs. Ice-cutters not rarely come in for an involuntary plunge-bath, and are obliged to let their clothes dry on their backs: it may result in a bowel-complaint, but no catarrh. Prolonged exposure to a cold storm may in rare cases induce a true pleural fever, a very troublesome affection, but as different from a "cold" as a headache is from a toothache—the upper air-passages remain unaffected. Sudden transition from heat to cold does not change the result. In winter the "pullers" of a rolling-mill have often to pass ten times an hour from the immediate neighborhood of a furnace to the chill draught of the open air; their skin becomes as rough as an armadillo's, their hair becomes grizzly or lead-colored; but no catarrh. On my last visit to Mexico, I ascended the peak of Orizaba from the south side, and reached the crater bathed in perspiration; and, following the guide across to the northwest slope, we were for ten minutes exposed to an ice-storm that swept the summit in blasts of fitful fury. Two of my companions, a boy of sixteen and an old army-surgeon, were not used to mountain-climbing, and could hardly walk when we got back to our camp in the foot-hills, but our lungs were none the worse for the adventure. Dr. Franklin, who, like Bacon and Goethe, had the gift of anticipative intuitions, seems to have suspected the mistake of the cold-air fallacy. "I shall not attempt to explain," says he, "why damp clothes occasion colds, rather than wet ones, because I doubt the fact; I believe that neither the one nor the other contributes to this effect, and that the causes of colds are totally independent of wet and even of cold" ("Miscellaneous Works," p. 216).

"I have, upon the approach of colder weather, removed my undergarments," says Dr. Page, "and have then attended to my out-door