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A Victorian Scrapbook

A Scrapbook of Newspaper Articles Compiled by George Burgess (1829-1905)

Victorian Health and Education

Clothing and Cold Catching

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Transcript from original newspaper article: -


Clothing and Cold CatchingColds and coughs, catarrhs and croups, still muscles and neuralgic jaws, aching teeth and rheumatic twinges, with frequent inflammations and occasional fevers, are among the calamities usually looked for in “cold, frosty weather.” – Indeed, the “dreary winter” season, as one-fourth of the year is most unjustly termed, is, to many minds suggestive of frozen toes and sore noses, with a long catalogue of intermediate maladies, among which are influenzas, pneumonias, joint-racking rheums, are all bronchial difficulties.

And some doctors, as well as many people, are too apt to suppose that the prevention for all these ills and ailings is to be found wholly in the quantity of the clothing we surround ourselves with.

The Boston Medical Journal, in a late number, on the Hygiene of Dress, makes some judicious observations on the errors of sudden and improper exposures, and advises thick shoes, heavy cloth, abundant furs and plenty of garments, as the panacea in the matter of keeping the animal temperature above the cold-catching point.

But there is a physiological limit to dress as well as to every other hygienic agent or appliance. “Bundling up” is all very well and very necessary to a certain extent; yet excess of clothing is an evil, and is really one of the most frequent causes of a feeble, sensitive and morbidly susceptible skin, and consequent suffering from exposure to sudden or great alterations of temperature.

Of equal importance with the amount of on clothing are the quality of our blood and the state of its circulation. The skin is the great regulator of animal heat, and one of the principal organs of blood-purification. Hence, if we over-clothe the body we certainly lessen its power of self-protection, and, in the end, induce the very evil it is the object of clothing to prevent.

Instead of “piling on” all the clothing we can endure, a much better rule is to dress just as lightly as we can without actual discomfort.

The life principle within is our main protection against the elements without. And to have the best protection, under all the circumstances of heat and cold, and of their ever-varying vicissitudes, we must keep the vitality in free and vigorous play.

The most prevalent error in dress is too little about the feet and too much about the neck and chest. Since heavy neckerchiefs have been in fashion, throatails and quinsys have multiplied correspondingly. We have known many persons entirely cured of a tendency to frequent attacks of quinsy by merely washing the neck each morning in cold water, and substituting a light ribbon around the shirt-collar for the repudiated heavy stock of thick cravat.

A morning bath or ablution with tepid, cool or cold water, according to the re-active energies of the superficial circulation, will so invigorate the whole surface as to enable us to dispense with much clothing otherwise necessary, while if wonderfully diminishes our liability to take cold, or to suffer serious consequences in any way from inclemency to the weather.

Another important consideration for those who are not willing to “freeze to death continually” in cold weather is the matter of bodily positions. We should never allow the assailing blast to take us at a disadvantage; Man was made to walk upright at all seasons of the year and in all states of wind and weather.

But the great majority of our overmuch “bundle up” people have a way of drawing their ponderous shawls and massive overcoats so lightly about the neck that, when walking, they do not more than half breathe. And in addition to this, instead of bravely facing and fairly conquering the fierce winds, by a rapid step and erect posture, and a broad expanded chest, they throw the head forward, crook over the trunk and draw in the shoulders, and thus by impeding respiration and obstructing circulation, they prevent a due distribution of well-vitalised blood from performing its natural office of keeping up a permanent supply of animal heat.

Keep the feet warm, the head cool, the body evenly yet moderately clad, the skin well bathed, and accustom yourself to active out-door exercise, with “head erect and face up-turned to heaven,” and colds will never produce in you any very dangerous indispositions. –

Life Illustrated.