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Health, or, How to Live

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    VENTILATION

    The evils resulting from breathing, night after night, an atmosphere becoming more and more vitiated as the morning approaches, probably equal, if they do not exceed, those resulting from the intemperate use of spirituous liquors. Indeed it is questionable whether a craving for stimulants has not been occasionally created by this abominable yet prevalent custom of keeping the windows of the sleeping apartment either entirely closed or opened but a “crack.” They should be widely opened every night throughout the year, unless the weather is intensely cold, or the wind unusually violent, or some other valid reason exists for mitigating the draught.HHTL 244.1

    Were this practice universally adopted, a surprising reduction would be quickly manifested in the frequency of morning headache and nausea, dyspepsia, chronic catarrh, croup, diphtheria, influenza, measles, scrofula, consumption, scarlet fever, small-pox, typhus fever, felon whitlow, erysipelas, and many other disorders, which are more often induced by an infected atmosphere than any other cause.HHTL 244.2

    In recommending a draught I am not advocating a whirlwind or hurricane, but merely such a current of air as will supply the lungs during each night with from eight to ten thousand installments of pure, fresh, free oxygen, in a quantity fully equal to any possible demand of the human system. Stagnant air cannot supply the want, neither can air that is in motion, if it be not perceptibly so; nothing less than a draught, moderate but decided, and continuing throughout the night, can meet in every respect the requirements of health.HHTL 244.3

    Of the many and remarkable advantages of sleeping in the open air, or what may be regarded as the same thing, I can speak from thirteen years’ experience. Commencing the practice rather abruptly in the winter of 1850, and without suffering any serious inconvenience from the initial trial, I became in a few weeks nearly as invulnerable to the assaults of a freezing cold blast as a salamander to fire. From that time to the present I have not once suffered from any pulmonary affection, and, except in very rare instances, have been utterly exempt from any illness that could be traced to a night-draught exposure. In short, a practice which ... I have rigidly observed for a series of years, as one of the most important of all the means that I have hitherto adopted for indefinitely promoting health, strength, and development.HHTL 244.4

    The following are a few examples to illustrate the importance of a thorough system of ventilation, in cases where little if any complaint had been made of inattention to this hygienic measure:HHTL 245.1

    There was once in Glasgow an assemblage of buildings attached to a factory, which were occupied by about five hundred persons — one family in each room. For a long period an immense deal of sickness had pervaded the buildings, which the inmates seemed to regard as a mysterious dispensation of Providence, for they absolutely refused to adopt such sanitary expedients as had been repeatedly advised them. At length the proprietors of the establishment, despairing of ever making the inmates appreciate the importance of occasionally opening windows, resolved to apply a system of ventilation which should be thorough, continual, and utterly beyond the control of those subjected to it. They accordingly connected each room, by means of tubes, with the chimney of the factory furnace, and compelled every occupant, whether willing or unwilling, to expose daily and nightly to a draught of air. The result was that sickness of every kind rapidly diminished, and one disease, typhus fever, which had frequently raged as an epidemic, became for eight years “scarcely known to the place.”HHTL 245.2

    In 1842, at Norwood School, in England, scrofula made its appearance among six hundred children, and destroyed a great number of them. The disorder having been attributed to an insufficiency and bad quality of food, a scientific investigation was made, and a decision given that the food was most abundant and good — that “defective ventilation and consequent atmospheric impurity” was the cause of the sickness. A thorough system of ventilation was immediately applied, and scrofula rapidly disappeared, nor did it ever recur, though the number of pupils was gradually increased to eleven hundred.HHTL 245.3

    In a hospital in Dublin, 2,944 deaths took place in four years. A better system of ventilation having been resorted to as a means of lessening the mortality, it was found that during the next four years the number of deaths was only 279.HHTL 246.1

    The above facts are merely selected from a long array of a similar character, which tend to show the paramount importance of breathing an uncorrupted atmosphere. It is certainly no exaggeration to say, that were the public as particular as they should be, and easily might be, about the quality of that subtle fluid which enters and departs from an average pair of human lungs about a thousand times an hour, and nearly nine million times in a year, the bills of human mortality would be reduced one-third at least, and the average duration of human life be nearer seventy than forty. — Sel.HHTL 246.2

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