The Poor Rich Man, and the Rich Poor Man/Note
The writer of the preceding pages would not be supposed to want a due respect for the art of medicine; that it sometimes cures and sometimes alleviates, there can he no doubt; but, does not the patient often resort to it, and resort to it in vain, when, if he had studied and obeyed the laws of physiology, he would not have needed the aid it cannot give.
The laws of Him who made us are perfect. "It is a very different thing to comply blindly with the directions which come to us simply on the authority of a man like ourselves, and to comply intelligently with those which claim our obedience on the authority of the Creator."
The suggestions made in this volume, on the use of ablutions, ventilation, flannel, &c., for the preservation of health, are derived from the admirable and popular work of Andrew Combe on Physiology, and from an observation of the benefit derived from the actual application of his rules. We give a few brief extracts from hi& work, and wish that the whole, in a more popular form, were in every habitation in our land.
"Taking," says Mr. Combe, "even the lowest estimate of Lavoisier, we find the skin endowed with the important charge of removing from the system about twenty ounces of waste matter every twenty-four hours."—"Insensible perspiration removes from the skin, without trouble and without consciousness, a large quantity of useless materials; and, at the same time, keeps the skin soft and moist, and thereby fits it for the performance of its functions as the organ of external sense."—"Where the perspiration is brought to the surface of the skin, and confined there, either by injudicious clothing, or by want of cleanliness, there is much reason to suppose that its residual parts are again absorbed, and act on the system as a poison of greater or less power, according to its quantity and degree of concentration, thereby producing fever, inflammation, and even death itself." Mr. Combe proceeds to adduce many facts to support the theory that diseases are taken in through the skin, and therefrom infers the necessity of guarding it. "Brocchi ascribes the immunity (from the effects of malaria) of the sheep and cattle which pasture night and day in the Campagna to the protection afforded them "by their wool."—"Similar means have been found effectual in preserving the health of labourer digging and excavating drains and canals in marshy grounds, where, previous to the employment of these precautions; the mortality from fever was very considerable."
"The insensible perspiration being composed of a large quantity of water, which passes off in the form of vapour, and is not seen; and of various salts and animal matter, a portion of which remains adherent to the skin, the removal of this residue by washing becomes an indispensable condition of health."
In youth and health, "cold bathing and lighter clothing may be resorted to with a rational prospect of advantage; but when, from a weak constitution or unusual susceptibility, the skin is not endowed with sufficient vitality to originate the necessary reaction which alone renders these safe and proper—when they produce an abiding sense of chillness, however slight in degree—we may rest assured that mischief will inevitably follow at a greater or shorter distance of time."
"Many youths, particularly females, and those whose occupations are sedentary, pass days, weeks, and months without experiencing the pleasing glow and warmth of a healthy skin, and are habitually complaining of dullness on the surface, cold feet, and ether symptoms of deficient cutaneous circulation. Their suffering, unfortunately, does not stop here; for the unequal distribution of the blood oppresses the internal organs; and too often, by insensible degrees, lays the foundation of tubercles in the lungs, and other maladies, which show themselves only when arrived at an incurable stage."—" All who value health, and have common sense and resolution, will take warning from signs like these, and never rest till the equilibrium be restored. For this parpose, warm clothings exercise in the open air, sponging with vinegar and water, regular friction with a flesh-brush or hair glove, and great cleanliness, are excellently adapted."
"The Creator has made exercise essential as a means of health; and, if we neglect this, and seek it in clothing alone, it is at the risk, or rather certainty, of weakening the body, relaxing the surface," &c. &c.—"Many good constitutions are thus ruined, and many nervous and pulmonary complaints brought on to imbitter existence."
"Flannel, from being a bad conductor of heat, prevents that of the animal economy from being quickly dissipated, and protects the body in a considerable degree from the influence of sudden external changes. From its presenting a rough and uneven, though a soft, surface to the skin, every movement of the body in labour or exercise gives, by the consequent friction, a gentle stimulus to the cutaneous vessels and nerves, which assists their action, and maintains their functions in health; and being, at the same time, of a loose and porous texture, flannel is capable of absorbing the cutaneous exhalations to a larger extent than any other material in common use."
"It is during the sudden changes from heat to cold, so common in autumn, before the frame has got inured to the reduction of temperature, that protection is most wanted, and flannel is moat useful."
"The exhalation from the skin being so constant and extensive, its bad effects when confined suggest another rule of conduct, viz.—that of frequently changing and airing the clothes, so as to free them from every impurity. It is an excellent plan to wear two sets of flannels, each being worn and aired by turns, oil alternate days."—"A practice common in Italy merits universal adoption. Instead of beds being made up in the morning the moment they are vacated, and while still saturated with the nocturnal exhalations which, before morning, became sensible, even to smell, in a bedroom, the bedclothes were thrown over the backs of chairs, the mattresses shaken up, and the windows thrown open for the greater part of the day, so as to secure a thorough and cleansing ventilation."
"The opposite practice, carried to extremes in the dwellings of the poor, where three or four beds are often huddled up, with all their impurities, in a small room, is a fruitful source of fever and bad health, even where ventilation during the day, and nourishment, are not deficient."
"In eastern and warm countries, where perspiration is very copious, ablution and bathing have assumed the importance of religious observances."
"The warm, tepid, cold, or shower bath, as a means of pressing health, ought to be in as common use as a change of apparel, for it is equally a measure of necessary cleanliness."—"Our continental neighbours consider the bath as a necessary of life."
We hope the following remarks, which Mr Combe quotes from Stuart, the traveller, will be taken as a wholesome admonition, not as an unkind censure:—
"The practice of travellers washing at the doors, or in the porticoes or stoops, or at the wells of taverns and hotels, once a day, is most prejudicial to health; the ablution of the body, which ought never to be neglected, at least twice a day, being inconsistent with it. I found it more difficult, in travelling in the United States, to procure a liberal supply of water, at all times of the day, in my bedchamber, than any other necessary. A supply far washing the hands and face once a day seems all that is thought requisite.""For general use, the tepid, or warm bath, seems to me much more suitable than the cold bath, especially in winter, for those who are not robust and full of animal heat."—"For those not robust, daily sponging of the body with cold water and vinegar, or salt water, is the best substitute for the cold bath, and may be resorted to with safety, especially when care is taken to excite in the surface, by subsequent friction with the flesh-brush or hair glove, the healthy glow of reaction."—" A person in sound health may take a bath at any time, except immediately after meals."—"As a general rule, active exertion ought to be avoided for an hour or two after using the warm or tepid bath."—"If the bath cannot be had at all places, soap and water may he obtained everywhere, and leave no apology for neglecting the skin; or, if the constitution be delicate, water and vinegar, or water and salt. A rough and rather coarse towel is a very useful auxiliary. Few of those who have steadiness enough to keep up the action of the skin by the above means, and to avoid strong exciting causes, will ever suffer from colds, sore throats, or similar complaints."—"If one tenth of the persevering attention and labour bestowed to so much purpose in rubbing down and currying, the skins of horses, were bestowed on the human race in keeping themselves in good condition, and a little attention were paid to diet and clothing, colds, nervous diseases, and stomach complaints would cease to form so large a catalogue in human miseries."
We with we could enrich our little book with farther extracts, but we must conclude with again earnestly recommending Dr. Combe's work, "The Principles of Physiology, applied to the Preservation of Health" as one of the most important for the family library.