Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/227

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215
RELATION OF AIR TO THE HOUSE WE LIVE IN.

draughts is one of the few hygienic principles which have become thoroughly popular. Perhaps this was not all profit, because with many people ventilation and draught are synonymous; they are afraid of a draught coming from an open window, an open door, and find themselves in collision with ventilation.

There is certainly and frequently danger in being exposed to a draught—a danger which has, perhaps, been over-estimated, because men have an irresistible desire to fix a certain cause for a certain evil. All collision is avoided if the proper meanings of ventilation and draught are thoroughly understood.

Ventilation is the necessary change of the air in a closed space, at which the velocity of the air is still taken for a complete stillness, and its motion takes place all round our body. It must not be more than a little above nineteen inches per second.

Draught is a one-sided cooling of the body, or some part of it, frequently caused by a corresponding motion of cold air, but also in other ways, as by increased one-sided radiation. The danger is, in the first instance, the local perturbation in our heat-economy, which has partly local consequences, but also and chiefly disorders the nerves, acting on the calibre of our blood-vessels, our vaso-motor nerves, which have to regulate the outflow of our heat. When we are in the open, and the air is in more motion than the air of a draught, we speak of wind, etc., but seldom of draught, because the whole air-current flows equally all round us, just as in a well-ventilated room, only with greater velocity.

The vaso-motor nerves, regulating the circulation in our skin, are beyond our control, and we cannot bid them to defend us simply at the place attacked by the draught. They know only how to serve our heat-economy when the outflow of heat from our bodies is equal, or nearly so, on all sides. They misunderstand the local irritation for one spread over the whole surface, and act at once on this error. If one perspires and goes to the window with bared neck or chest, one feels a shiver not only there but all over the body, and the perspiration becomes suppressed accordingly. The blood which at the time filled the blood-vessels of the glowing skin is displaced by the contraction of its channels; but by the misunderstanding of the vaso-motor nerves it is driven not only from the exposed parts but from the whole surface toward the internal parts. If one or some of them are in some state of weakness, danger or bad consequences cannot fail. It is the same thing as with a large quantity of cold water taken in too quickly when the body is heated. A draught, then, is injurious only in so far as it causes perturbations in our heat-economy, and as these perturbations can be caused in different ways we often accuse the draught wrongly.

We hear often, "I don't like sitting near this window, close to this wall," and so on; "there is always a slight draught coming from