Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/401

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395
STUFFY ROOMS

evaporation from, and flow of tissue lymph through, the respiratory tract, in warm, moist confined air. Colds are not caught by exposure to cold per se, as is shown by the experience of Arctic explorers, sailors, shipwrecked passengers, etc.

We have very great inherent powers of withstanding exposure to cold. The bodily mechanisms become trained and set to maintain the body heat by habitual exposure to open-air life. The risk lies in overheating our dwellings and over-clothing our bodies, so that the mechanisms engaged in resisting infection become enfeebled, and no longer able to meet the sudden transition from the warm atmosphere of our rooms to the chill outside air of winter. The dark and gloomy days of winter confine us within doors, and, by reducing our activity and exposure to open air, depress the metabolism; the influence of smoke and fog, gloom of house and streets, cavernous places of business and dark dwellings, intensify the depression. The immunity to a cold after an infection lasts but a short while, and when children return, after the summer holidays, to school and damp chill autumn days, infection runs around. The history of hospital gangrene and its abolition by the aseptic methods of Lister—likewise the history of insect-borne disease—show the great importance of cleanliness in crowded and much occupied rooms. The essentials required of any good system of ventilation are then (1) movement, coolness, proper degree of relative moisture of the air; (2) reduction of the mass influence of pathogenic bacteria. The chemical purity of the air is of very minor importance, and will be adequately insured by attendance to the essentials.

As the prevention of spray (saliva) infection by ventilation is impossible in crowded places, it behooves us to maintain our immunity at a high level. We may seek to diminish the spray output of those infected with colds by teaching them to cough, sneeze and talk with a handkerchief held in front of the mouth or to stay at home until the acute stage is past.

In all these matters nurture is of the greatest importance, as well as nature. A man is born with physical and mental capacities small or great, with inherited characteristics, with more or less immunity to certain diseases, with a tendency to longevity of life or the opposite, but his comfort and happiness in life, the small or full development of his physical and mental capacities, his immunity and his longevity of life, are undoubtedly determined to a vast extent by nurture. By nurture—use the the word in its widest sense to include all the defensive methods of sanitary science—plague, yellow fever, malaria, sleeping-sickness, cholera, hospital gangrene, etc., can be prevented by eliminating the infecting cause; smallpox and typhoid by this means, and also by vaccination; and most of the other ills which flesh is sup-