The high level of average healthfulness in modern life is not entirely due to the discoveries of the medical profession. Medicine has been very adaptable in its habit of incorporating important discoveries made by people outside its own ranks. We are indebted to a singing master for the invention of the laryngoscope, which allows us to view the vocal cords, an invention which founded the science of laryngology; to the old herb woman, Mother Hutton, for the discovery of the value of digitalis, or foxglove, in dropsy; to a druggist for the isolation of morphine.
The use of water has become so regular a part of our daily life that we do not stop to realize what a potent force it is for the prevention of disease. For this widespread application of a hygienic measure, medicine is indebted to an artisan, the plumber, who should rank with the druggist and the nurse and the modern purveyor of food, as one of preventive medicine’s most valuable assets.
The modern bathroom and the modern kitchen sink have made it possible to dispose of excreta and human leavings in a clean and sanitary way, and have accomplished a result which would have astonished the citizen of less than a hundred years ago. In 1865 a sanitary inspector in New York wrote this account of the city streets: “Domestic garbage and filth of every kind is thrown into the streets, covering their surface, filling the gutter, obstructing the culverts, and sending forth perennial emanations.”
The modern bath tub has changed bathing from a troublesome rite into a pleasure. In the days when enough water for a bath had to be carried over a distance from the house and upstairs, it was not unnatural that only one night in the week, Saturday, should have been devoted to cleaning the skin of the body. For most people this is now a daily pleasure. Considered simply as a comfort by most of us, it has nevertheless much more important results in the prevention of disease. The number of skin infections which result from abrasions, scratches, etc., is infinitesimal on a skin which is cleansed daily, compared to the old days when dirt was allowed to accumulate for a week.
The prevention of heat stroke during the summer time is a possible by-product of your daily bath. Water is the most important method in the treatment of heat stroke, and equally so in its prevention. A daily bath is the most important method of reducing body odor. It also maintains the equilibrium of the circulation and aids in general bodily excretion.