Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 40.djvu/204

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By the Rev. J. W. QUINBY.

ONE of the saddest sights of our civilization is the spectacle of disease and pain which confronts us on every side It is rare indeed to find even an individual perfectly well, to say nothing of families and communities. But why is it?

Barbarians and savages do not so suffer. May it not be in part, because civilized communities do not sufficiently avail themselves of the sanitary influences of the air and light? It is in the hope of helping to answer this question that the following notes of personal experience are herewith given.

A few years ago I read an article in in the Popular Science Monthly which seemed to prove the value of pure air as a preventive of "colds." The theory suggested was that colds may be caused by the loss of a certain equilibrium between the oxygen in the lungs and the carbon in the blood. It is true that this may follow overeating, and so overcharging the blood with food elements; but more frequently, it was thought, the lack of pure air By acting upon this theory almost incredible results were said to have been reached. The writer of the article alluded to claimed that he had easily brought himself into a condition in which It seemed impossible to take cold. He could sit in thin clothing in winter at an open window. The ordinary causes of colds, such as wet feet, overheating, and the like, seemed powerless to produce their usual results.

With these statements in mind, I remembered some curious facts of my own experience in the army in 1862 and 1863. I was not strong, and indeed was hardly fit to be in the army at all. And when I found myself exposed all day long to a steady rain, and at night to the outdoor air, with no fire, no change of clothing, no shelter but a canvas covering open at both ends, through which the rain dripped constantly, it seemed certain that the "death o' cold" so often predicted must surely follow. Why it did not follow was more of a mystery then, however, than it is now. For I was in a place where the art of man no longer excluded one of the prime principles of health. I breathed pure air because I could not help it. During a service of fifteen months, with severe exposures, but fresh air constantly, the same immunity from colds prevailed. I remembered, too, that when I came home from the army the blessing and the curse—at least one of the curses of civil life—came back together. I had comfortable rooms to eat, breathe, and sleep in on the one hand, but very soon colds, sore throats, and related troubles on the other. This was the second count in the argument for pure air.