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Sun-baths, light-baths, and air-baths are collectively referred to by Rikli, Monteuius and others as the atmospheric cure. The literature on the subject is so confused that one often has difficulty in determining which bath is being considered. I have tried to avoid this ambiguity of language.
One cannot take a sun-bath or light-bath without also receiving an air-bath, but the air-bath may be taken in one's own room, or in the darkness of night. It does not depend on the presence of light. It consists simply in exposing the nude body to the air.
Dr. Trall considered the air-bath as admirable in cases of scrofula, rickets, and other conditions. Rikli declared: "Man is made to live in the open air; therefore when exposed to the action of light, air and sun, he is in his real element. As a natural agent, water takes only an inferior place, above it comes air, whilst light takes precedence over every other natural agent, and is the greatest essential wherever organic life exists. The nervous system which is an inherent principle of our organism is acted upon by light, especially through the skin. The purposes of the air treatment is the strengthening of the skin by restoring its natural functions and vitality and elasticity it has absorbed from its primitive state when directly in contact with the skin."
Saleeby quotes the French students as saying, "Baths of water are good, baths of air are better, baths of light are best." This is but a shortening of Rikli's statement above.
Benjamin Franklin was in the habit of taking air baths each morning in his room. He made some efforts to induce others to adopt the practice and speaks highly of the benefits he derived therefrom. Franklin particularly desired to divest himself of all clothing when doing mental work. Adolph Just, of Germany, also lays great stress on the air-bath.
Air playing over the body may increase metabolism fifty per cent in ten minutes. Thyroid extract, medicine's only claimed stimulant of metabolism, is said to require a year to accomplish this same thing. An air-bath of twenty minutes duration reduces the hydrogen-ion content of the blood to normal. No drug method known can do this in any length of time.
Dr. Leonard Hill showed that "a high cooling power not only increases the heat production of the body during exposure, but raises the basal metabolism to a higher level. The fire of life is made to burn faster." Together with Sir Henry Gauvin he made a careful examination of children at the Treloar Hospital, Alton, and Hayling Island, and concluded that the high metabolism, produced equally in pigmented and unpigmented children, was due to the cooling power of the air, and not to radiation.
Halstead attributed the results achieved in bone and glandular tuberculosis solely to fresh air. S. Bangs, who has had much experience with both the air-bath and the sun-bath, believes that the air-bath is the most beneficial of the two. Prof. J. Dollinger (Budapest) says that it is impossible to decide whether open air or sunlight plays the most important role in the healing processes in tuberculosis.
Arringer-Cherkoff says: "All painter's models, especially those who on account of their fine figures are in constant demand for sittings and consequently are naked the greater part of the day, soon acquire a fresh rosy tint of the skin, their figures improve, and in a few weeks from the time they take up their occupation enjoy far better health than formerly."
As soon as people realize that sun and air-baths are more important than water-baths, all of our cities will have public sun-parks where the people may go and take their sun and air-baths.
Air baths, accompanied by gymnastic exercise, which are more pleasantly practiced in a state of nudity, will do much to add to the health of everyone. They will also harden one and make him or her more resistant to weather changes. It is a good thing to train oneself to resist an exaggerated dread of cold.
The weak and debilitated person must use due caution in beginning air bathing. Everything must be in proportion to capacity and that of chronic patients or of those troubled with nervous disorders is often very limited. In such cases the first few baths must be short ones. It frequently happens that delicate and sensitive patients . cannot endure more than three minutes at the beginning. Their hyper-sensitiveness must be taken into account and duly respected.
The air bath should be pleasant and if it is taken progressively will prove to be so. Its duration must depend on the temperature and on the condition of the patient. The patient must not be permitted to chill. Should chilling occur, no time should be lost in securing proper warmth.
If blind enthusiasm has caused the beginner to prolong the bath too long, fatigue may be experienced during the day, or discomfort may be pronounced and the patient may suffer from excessive weariness, varied by aches and pains in the head or back, accompanied by slight feverishness.
No time is more convenient for the air bath than immediately upon arising in the morning, while one goes through his or her daily exercises. Air baths a la Franklin may be taken by the vigorous and healthy without the above precautions.
Thousands of people enjoy their daily air bath, even in the most inclement weather. Don't say "Oh! but they are used to it." Get used to it! You can then withstand the weather changes with the same ease that they do.
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