_dr. Boerhaave's Rules._
This great man left, as a legacy to the world the following simple and unerring directions for preserving health; they contained the sum and substance of his vast professional knowledge during a long and useful life: - "Keep the feet warm, the head cool, and the body open." If these were generally attended to the physician's aid would seldom be required.
To adapt the dress with a scrupulous nicety to the fluctuations of temperature every day, would indeed require such minute attention as hardly any person can bestow; but every person may comply with the general rules of clothing, as far as not to lay aside too early the dress of the winter, nor to retain that of the summer too late: from a neglect of which precaution thousands of lives are every year sacrificed to mortality. The perfection of dress, considered merely as such, is to fit without fettering the body.
Nothing is more pernicious than the air of a place where a numerous body of people is collected together within doors, especially if to the breath of the crowd there be added the vapors of a multitude of candles, and the consumption of the vital air by fires in proportion. Hence it happens that persons of a delicate constitution are liable to become sick or faint in a place of this kind. These ought to avoid, as much as possible the air of great towns; which is also peculiarly hurtful to the asthmatic and consumptive, as it is likewise to hysteric women and men of weak nerves. Where such people cannot always live without the verge of great towns, they ought at least to go out as often as they can into the open air, and if possible pass the night in the wholesome situation of the suburbs.
Air that has long stagnated becomes extremely unwholesome to breathe, and often immediately fatal. Such is that of mines, wells, cellars, etc. People ought therefore to be very cautious in entering places of this description which have been long shut up. The air of some hospitals, jails, ships, etc., partakes of the same unwholesome and pernicious nature, and they ought never to be destitute of ventilators--those useful contrivances for expelling foul and introducing fresh air into its place. The same may be said of all places where numbers of people are crowded together; or where fires, especially charcoal fires, are burning.
It is found that most plants have the property of correcting bad air within a few hours, when they are exposed to the light of the sun; but that on the contrary, during the night or when flowering they corrupt the common air of the atmosphere. Hence it is an unwholesome practice to have shrubs in an apartment that is slept in, at least when in bloom.
_Ventilation of Churches._
Both in public and private buildings there are errors committed which affect in an extraordinary degree the salubrity of the air. Churches are seldom open during all the week; they are never ventilated by fires, and rarely by opening the windows, while, to render the air of them yet more unwholesome, frequently no attention is paid to keeping them clean. The consequence of which is that they are damp, musty, and apt to prove hurtful to people of weak constitutions; and it is a common remark that a person cannot pass through a large church or cathedral, even in summer, without a strong feeling of chilliness.
_Ventilation of Houses._
The great attention paid to making houses close and warm, though apparently well adapted to the comfort of the inhabitants, is by no means favorable to health, unless care be taken every day to admit fresh air by the windows. Sometimes it may be proper to make use of what is called pumping the room, or moving the door backward and forward for some minutes together. The practice of making the beds early in the day, however it may suit convenience or delicacy, is doubtless improper. It would be much better to turn them down and expose them to the influence of the air admitted by the windows.
For many persons to sleep in one room, as in the ward of a hospital, is hurtful to health, and it is scarcely a less injurious custom, though often practised by those who have splendid houses, for two or more to sleep in a small apartment, especially if it be very close.
Houses situated in low marshy countries, or near lakes of stagnant water, are likewise unwholesome, as they partake of the putrid vapors exhaled in such places. To remedy this evil, those who inhabit them, if they study their health, ought to use a more generous diet than is requisite in more dry and elevated situations. It is very important too, in such localities to dry the house with a fire whenever the air is damp, even in the summer.
_Burying in Churches, etc._
It was formerly, and is now, too common to have churchyards in the middle of populous towns. This is not only reprehensible in point of taste, but, considering how near to the surface of the earth the dead bodies in many places are deposited, there must necessarily arise putrid vapors, which, however imperceptible, cannot fail to contaminate the air. The practice of burying in churches is still more liable to censure, and not many years ago, the pernicious' effects of this custom were so severely felt in France, as to occasion a positive edict against it.
_To Dissipate Noxious Vapors in Wells, etc._
Procure a pair of smith's bellows, affixed on A wooden frame, so as to work in the same manner as at the forge. This apparatus being placed at the edge of the well, one end of a leathern tube (the hose of a fire engine), should be closely adapted to the nose of the bellows, and the other end thrown into the well, reaching within one foot of the bottom.
If the well be even so infected, that a candle will not burn at a short distance from the top; after blowing with the bellows only half an hour, the candle will burn brightly at the bottom; then without further difficulty, proceed in the work.
It is obvious, that in cleaning vaults, or working in any subterraneous place subject to damps, the same method must be attended with the like beneficial effects.
Persons whose business requires them to attend upon large quantities of fermenting liquors, or to work in close places with lighted charcoal, frequently experience headache, giddiness, and other disagreeable effects from the noxious vapors which these exhale, and often have their health impaired, or their lives endangered by a continuance in the employment. In some cases, the danger, perhaps, cannot be avoided, except by going into the open air, as soon as headache or giddiness begins, and drinking a glass of cold water, or washing the face and neck with the same. In the case of persons whose work requires charcoal fires, their dangerous effects may be prevented, by taking care not to sit near the fire when burning, or to burn it in a chimney, and when there is none to keep the door open, and place a large tub of lime-water in the room.
To Protect Gilders, Jewellers, and others from the Pernicious Effects of _Charcoal._
It is advisable for all those who are exposed to the vapors of charcoal, particularly gilders, jewellers, refiners of metal, etc., to place a flat vessel filled with limewater, near the stove in which the charcoal is burnt.
The lime combines with the carbonic acid gas evolved by the ignited charcoal, and preserves the purity of the air. When the surface of the water becomes covered with a film, or pellicle, it must be changed for a fresh quantity.
_To Prevent Lamps from proving Pernicious to Asthmatic People._
The smoking of lamps is frequently disregarded in domestic life; but the fumes ascending from oil, especially if it be tainted or rancid, are highly pernicious, when inhaled into the lungs of asthmatic persons. To prevent this, let a sponge three or four inches in diameter, be moistened with pure water, and in that state be suspended by a string or wire, exactly over the flame of the lamp, at the distance of a few inches; this substance will absorb all the smoke emitted during the evening or night, after which it should be rinsed in warm water, by which means it will be again rendered fit for use.
_To Disinfect Substances or Places._
Put a saucer full of chloride of lime on the floor of the room, and renew it every two or three days. Or, sprinkle Labarraque's solution of chloride of soda over the floor or walls. Ledoyen's solution of nitrate of lead will at once remove the odor of most foul air. But the only absolutely certain method of disinfection is by heat; for example, let every person be removed from the tainted building or vessel, and then by means of stoves, keep up a temperature of 140 fahr., for two or three days.
_To Protect Gilders from the Pernicious Effects of Mercury._
They should have two doors in their work room, opposite to each other, which they should keep open, that there may be a free circulation of air. They should likewise have a piece of gold applied to the roof of the mouth, during the whole time of the operation. This plate will attract and intercept the mercury as they breathe, and when it grows white they must cast it into the fire, that the mercury may evaporate, and replace it when it is cool again. They should, indeed, have two pieces of gold, that one may be put into the mouth whilst the other is purifying and cooling; by these means they will preserve themselves from the diseases and infirmities which mercury occasions.
_Riding and Walking._
For preserving health, there is no kind of exercise more proper than walking, as it gives the most general action to the muscles of the body; but, for valetudinarians, riding on horseback is preferable. It is almost incredible how much the constitution may be strengthened by this exercise, when continued for a considerable time; not so much in the fashionable way of a morning ride, but of making long journeys, in which there is the farther advantage of a perpetual change of air. Numbers of people, reduced to a state of great weakness, have, by this means, acquired a degree of vigor and health, which all the medical prescriptions in the world could not otherwise have procured. But it is of importance, in travelling for health, that one should not employ his mind in deep reflections, but enjoy the company of an agreeable companion, and gratify his sight with the prospect of the various objects around him. In this exercise, as well as in every other, we ought always to begin gently, and to finish gradually, never abruptly; and proportion the exertion to the strength.
_Exercise after Meals._
Exercise is hurtful immediately after meals, particularly to those of nervous and irritable constitutions, who are thence liable to heartburn, eructations, and vomiting. Indeed, the instinct of the inferior animals confirms the propriety of this rule; for they are all inclined to indulge themselves in rest after food. At all events, fatiguing exercise should be delayed till digestion is performed, which generally requires three or four hours after eating a full meal.
This is a species of exercise much recommended by the ancient physicians; and to this may be joined that of speaking. They are both of great advantage to those who have not sufficient leisure or opportunities for other kinds of exercise. To speak very loud, however, is hurtful to weak lungs. Singing, as by the vibratory motion of the air it shakes the lungs and the bowels of the abdomen or belly, promotes, in a remarkable degree, the circulation of the blood. Hence, those sedentary artificers or mechanics, who from habit almost constantly sing at their work, unintentionally contribute much to the preservation of their health.
All these are more or less hurtful to the lungs, which they weaken, by introducing much air, and keeping that organ too long in a state of distention. On this account, persons of weak lungs, who play much on the flute, hautboy, or French horn, are frequently afflicted with spitting of blood, cough, shortness of breath, and pulmonary consumption. Blowing those instruments likewise checks the circulation of the blood through the lungs, accumulates it towards the head, and disposes such persons to apoplexy.
One of the most gentle and useful kinds of exercise is friction of the body, either by the naked hand, a piece of flannel, or, what is still better, a flesh-brush. This was in great esteem among the ancients, and is so at present in the East Indies The whole body may be subjected to this mild operation, but chiefly the belly, the spine, or backbone, and the arms and legs. Friction clears the skin, resolves stagnating humors, promotes perspiration, strengthens the fibres, and increases the warmth and energy of the whole body. In rheumatism, gout, palsy, and green sickness, it is an excellent remedy. To the sedentary, the hyperchondriac, and persons troubled with indigestion, who have not leisure to take sufficient exercise, the daily friction of the belly, in particular, cannot be too much recommended as a substitute for other means, in order to dissolve the thick humors which may be forming in the bowels, by stagnation, and to strengthen the vessels. But, in rubbing the belly, the operation ought to be performed in a circular direction, as being most favorable to the course of the intestines, and their natural action. It should be performed in the morning, on an empty stomach, or, rather, in bed before getting up, and continued at least for some minutes at a time.
This accident is at all times less frequent in towns than in the country, owing to the almost universal use of the umbrella in the former.
When a person is wet he ought never to stand, but to continue in motion till he arrives at a place where he may be suitably accommodated. Here he should strip off his wet clothes, to be changed for such as are dry, and have those parts of his body which have been wetted, well rubbed with a dry cloth. The legs, shoulders, and arms, are generally the parts most exposed to wet; they should, therefore, be particularly attended to. It is almost incredible how many diseases may be prevented by adopting this course. Catarrhs, inflammations, rheumatisms, diarrhoeas, fevers, and consumptions, are the foremost among the train which frequently follow an accident of this kind.
_Precautions in removing from a Hot to a Cold Situation._
It should be a determined rule to avoid all rapid transitions from one extreme to another, and never to remove from a room highly heated to a fresh or cold air while the body remains warm, or till the necessary change to a warmer dress has been previously made. If, at any time, the body should be violently heated, during the warm weather, it is sure to suffer by going into vaults, cellars, ice-houses, by cold bathing, or by sitting on cold stones, or damp earth; many lingering and incurable maladies have been brought on by such imprudence; nay, present death has, in some instances, been the consequence of such transgression. Pulmonary consumption, which makes annually such dreadful ravages among the young and middle aged, has been frequently induced by such apparently trifling causes.
_To keep the Feet Dry._
One method that has been found to succeed in keeping the feet dry is to wear, over the foot of the stocking, a sock made of oiled silk. To keep it in its proper place, it will be necessary to wear over it a cotton or worsted sock. India-rubber overshoes or boots are now generally worn. But they or oiled silk, as they prevent the evaporation of the insensible perspiration, and thus obstruct the pores of the skin, should never be worn long at a time.
_To preserve the Eye-eight._
1. Never sit for any length of time in absolute gloom, or exposed to a blaze of light. The reason on which this rule is founded proves the impropriety of going hastily from one extreme to the other, whether of darkness or of light, and shows us that a southern aspect is improper for those whose sight is weak and tender.
2. Avoid reading small print, and straining the eyes by looking at minute objects.
3. Do not read in the dusk, nor, if the eyes be disordered, by candle-light.
4. Do not permit the eyes to dwell on glaring objects, more particularly on first waking in the morning; the sun should not of course be suffered to shine in the room at that time, and a moderate quantity of light only should be admitted. For the same reasons, the furniture, walls, and other objects of a bed-room should not be altogether of a white or glaring color; indeed, those whose eyes are weak, would find considerable advantage in having green for the furniture, and as the prevailing color of their bed-chambers. Nature confirms the propriety of this direction, for the light of the day comes on by slow degrees, and green is the universal color she presents to our eyes.
5. Those individuals who are rather longsighted should accustom themselves to read with the book somewhat nearer to the eye than what they naturally like, while others, that are rather short-sighted, should use themselves to read with the book as far off as possible. By these means both will improve and strengthen their sight, while a contrary coarse increases its natural imperfections. It is well to read or sew with the light above or behind, rather than in front of the face, or with a shade to protect the eyes from glare.
_Use of Spectacles._
From whatever cause the decay of sight arises an attentive consideration of the following rules will enable any one to judge for himself when his eye-sight may be assisted or preserved by the use of proper glasses:
1. When we are obliged to remove small objects to a considerable distance from the eye in order to see them distinctly.
2. If we find it necessary to get more light than formerly, as for instance to place the candle between the eye and the object.
3. If on looking at and attentively considering a near object it fatigues the eye and becomes confused, or if it appears to have a kind of dimness or mist before it.
4. When small, printed letters are seen to run into each other, and on looking steadfastly at them appear double or treble.
5. If the eyes are so fatigued by a little exercise that we are obliged to shut them from time to time, so as to relieve them by looking at different objects.
When all these circumstances concur, or any of them separately takes place, it will be necessary to seek assistance from glasses, which will ease the eyes, and in some degree check their tendency to become worse, whereas if they be not assisted in time the weakness will be undoubtedly increased and the eyes be impaired by the efforts they are compelled to make. When weakness of the sight is not remedied by glasses, it will be necessary to avoid all use of the eyes which gives pain or causes fatigue, especially at night.
To set off the complexion with all the advantage it can attain, nothing more is requisite than to wash the face with pure water, or if anything farther be occasionally necessary, it is only the addition of a little soap.
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