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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/651

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633
THE REMEDIES OF NATURE.

seems to reach the seat of the disease by an air-line. As the chest begins to heave under the stimulus of the exercise, respiration becomes freer as it becomes deeper and fuller, expectoration ceases to be painful, and the mucus is at last discharged en masse, as if the system had only waited for that amount of encouragement to rid itself of the incubus. A catarrh can thus be broken up in a single day. For the next half-week the diet should be frugal and cooling. Fruit, light bread, and a little cold, sweet milk, is the best catarrh-diet. A fast-day, though, is still better. Fasting effects in a perfectly safe way what the old-school practitioners tried to accomplish by bleeding; it reduces the semi-febrile condition which accompanies every severe cold. There is no doubt that by exercise alone a catarrh can gradually be "worked off." But in-doors it is apt to be steep up-hill work, while cold air—even before the season of actual frosts—acts upon pulmonary disorders as it does upon malarial fevers: it reduces them to a less malignant type.

A combination of the three specifics—exercise, abstinence, and fresh air—will cure the most obstinate cold; only, the first signs of improvement should not encourage the convalescent to brave the atmosphere of a lung-poison den. So-called chronic catarrhs are, properly speaking, a succession of bronchial fevers. The popular idea that an average "cold" lasts about nine days, has some foundation in truth. Like other fevers, catarrhs have a self-limited period of development, but the recovery from the first attack constitutes no guarantee against an immediate relapse; on the contrary, the first seizure appears to prepare the way for its successors. A long sojourn in an absolutely pure atmosphere, as in a summer camp on the mountains, seems for a while to make the lungs catarrh-proof, by increasing the vigor of their resisting ability, and the returned tourist may find to his surprise that the air of his family den can now be breathed without the wonted consequences. But the addition of a stove or a double window at last turns the scales against Nature, and the first malignant cold reproduces the sensitiveness of the respiratory organs.

After recovery from a chronic catarrh the danger of contagion should therefore be carefully avoided. In many of our Northern cities ill-ventilated reading-rooms are veritable hot-beds of lung-poison, as crowded court-rooms in the villages, and taverns and quilting-assemblies in the backwoods. Meeting-houses, with their large windows and small, rarely-used stoves, are less dangerous; but stuffy school-rooms are as prolific of colds as swamps of mosquitoes, and often counteract all sanitary precautions of the domestic arrangements. Stuffed railway-cars, too, could claim a premium as galloping-consumption factories; and after dark the retreat to an over-heated "Pullman sleeper" would hardly increase the chances of longevity; the best plan for long-distance travelers would, on the whole, be to secure a rear seat, where open windows are less apt to awaken the