Ventilation Is Winter Problem Because Of Varied Clothing

“Why,” asks a somewhat angry reader, “are women so much more likely to be cold inside a room in the winter than men? Does this imply any difference in health?”

The answer is, of course, evident to everyone, but the fact that it constitutes a considerable health hazard is not quite so often taken into account. The difference is, of course, largely due to the difference in clothing.

The clothing which American men wear in the winter time is usually heavy enough to allow them to be comfortable in a temperature of about 55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. The clothing that most women wear in the winter time would not make them very comfortable at the equator.

Besides this, American homes and office buildings, and buildings of all kinds, usually are badly over-heated and badly ventilated in the winter time. In fact, I have seen it stated that American homes in the winter time have exactly the same amount of humidity as the Sahara Desert.

I see no prospect of persuading women to wear any heavier clothes and allow the house to be kept at a temperature of 65 degrees, so, therefore, I believe the only way to help this situation is to recommend thinner clothes for the men. As a matter of fact, the standard for the weight of our clothes came originally from England where climatic conditions are entirely different from those in the United States. It is true that in the past 20 years the weight of garments for men has come down so that it is now all through the year far below the weight of garments sold in England or in most parts of Europe. In fact, it is impossible to obtain materials in Europe as thin as American men demand in the summer time.

However, there are certain other conditions that are different in the United States. The system of heating houses from a central furnace is far more prevalent than in England or other parts of Europe. Over there they are likely to have an open fire in the grate in one room, and the halls and the rooms where there is no fire are cold. The edges of such a room are much colder than ours. Hence, they require heavier garments indoors.

As a matter of fact, American men, for their own health and comfort, should wear almost summer weight cloth for their suits. They will find that with their heavy overcoats they can keep perfectly comfortable in such garments on the street.

People vary, of course, in their sensitiveness to cold, but most differences are clue to such simple things as I have pointed out.


An average man eats 3 pounds of food a day, drinks 4 pounds of water, breathes 34 pounds of air. Sixty per cent of his energy is derived from the air he breathes, and 40 per cent from the food and water.

Since air plays this predominant part in our daily economy, we should be making more progress than we are in assuring ourselves that we are getting the most efficient air service possible. In these hard times the average man probably feels that he cannot take ad-vantage of the new inventions which are capable of making the inside air more healthful in his home, but certainly in the public works pro-gram of new buildings and in modern office buildings and schools, much consideration should be given them.

Most of us breathe inside air 90 per cent of the time—sleeping 8 hours, working 8 hours, eating 1 hours, indoor recreation 3 hours. Certainly this is true of the winter time, at least. The increase in efficiency for workers, for children in school, the increase in comfort for patrons of restaurants and theaters, justifies attention to this phase of hygiene. Not only efficiency and comfort, but health of the skin, and beauty of the complexion are increased by proper air conditioning, to say nothing of the freedom from common infections and illnesses, which are also dependent upon proper ventilation.

There are three factors in a well-ventilated room. One is the temperature, the second is the humidity, or amount of moisture, and the third is the movement of the air. During the winter time in the American home, office and school we have heretofore been inclined to pay too much attention to the temperature alone, to the exclusion of the other two factors. Air brought in from the outside on a cold winter’s day is likely to be dry, and in being heated by the furnace it expands and loses some of its moisture, and is, therefore, even drier than the outside air. And this is what turns most of our homes and office buildings into a condition that somewhat resembles the Sahara Desert or a dry kiln.

Housewives often wonder why the potted plants they attempt to grow indoors in winter die. The dry, hot air is responsible, as it is also responsible for headaches and fatigue and lack of pep.

Even without a specially designed means of humidifying and moving the air in the home in winter, some improvement can be made by using pans of water, stirring the air with electric fans, and regulation of the windows so that some outside air can come in without being heated by the furnace. These means, while not ideal, will come closer to providing efficient breathing quarters than the system of sealing up all the doors and windows and throwing out great billows of heat waves to the limit of what the inhabitants can stand.