A Guide to Health/Part 2/Chapter 1

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Chapter I


We have now done with the discussion of the foundations of health, as well as the means of its preservation. If all men and women were to obey all the laws of health, and practice strict Brahmacharya, there would be no need at all for the chapters which follow, for such men and women would then be free from all ailments, whether of the body or of the mind. But where can such men and women be found? Where are they who have not been afflicted by disease? The more strictly, however, we observe the laws which have been explained in this book, the more shall we be free from disease. But when diseases do attack us, it is our duty to deal with them properly, and the following chapters are intended to show how to do it.

Pure air, which is so essential to the preservation of health, is also essential to the cure of diseases. If, for instance, a man who is suffering from gout is treated with air heated by steam, he perspires profusely, and his joints are eased. This kind of vapour-treatment is known as "Turkish Bath."

If a man who is suffering from high fever is stripped naked, and made to sleep in the open air, there is an immediate fall in the temperature, and he feels a distinct relief. And if, when he feels cold, he is wrapped in a blanket, he perspires at once, and the fever ceases. But what we generally do is just the reverse of this. Even if the patient is willing to remain in the open air, we close all the doors and windows of the room in which he lies, and cover his whole body (including the head and ears) with blankets, with the result that he is frightened, and is rendered still weaker. If the fever is the outcome of too much heat, the sort of air-treatment described above is perfectly harmless, and its effect can be instantly felt. Of course, care should be taken that the patient does not begin to shiver in the open air. If he cannot remain naked, he may well be covered with blankets.

Change of air is an effective remedy for latent fever and other diseases. The common practice of taking a change of air is only an application of the principle of air-treatment. We often change our residence in the belief that a house constantly infested by disease is the resort of evil spirits. This is a mere delusion, for the real "evil spirits" in such cases are the foul air inside the house. A change of residence ensures a change of air, and with it the cure of the diseases brought on by it. Indeed, so vital is the relation between health and air that the good or evil effects of even a slight change are instantaneously felt. For a change of air the rich can afford to go to distant places, but even the poor can go from one village to another, or at least from one house to another. Even a change of room in the same house often brings great relief to a sick man. But, of course, care should be taken to see that the change of air is really for the better. Thus, for instance, a disease that has been brought on by damp air cannot be cured by a change to a damper locality. It is because sufficient attention is not paid to simple precautions like this that a change of air is often so ineffectual.

This chapter has been devoted to some simple instances of the application of air to the treatment of disease, while the chapter on Air in Part I of this book contains a general consideration of the value of pure air to health. Hence I would request my readers to read these two chapters side by side.