If we come to reflect upon it, in middle age we find that the one
great cause of departure from the ideal in real life is our liability
to take cold. Almost all our pleasures are bound up with this
probability, for when we have taken cold we are far too stupid either
to give or enjoy pleasure. And there is no philosophy connected with
colds. Serious illnesses are full of instruction and resignation, but
who thinks of being resigned to a cold, or of making a profitable use
Chilly is a word that of late years has come to be a frequent and
pitiably significant one on the lips of the middle-aged. They have a
terror of the frost and snow which they once enjoyed so keenly, and
they really suffer much more than they will allow themselves to
The most invigorating and inspiriting of all climates is 64°, but if
the glass fall to 50°, chilly people are miserable; they feel draughts
everywhere, especially on the face, and very likely the first symptoms
of a neuralgic attack. At 40°which must have been the in-door winter
temperature of our forefathersthey become irritable and shivery, and
lose all energy. If the temperature fall below 30°, they take cold,
and exhibit all the mental inertia and many of the physical symptoms of
influenza, which nevertheless has not attacked them.
Let us at once admit a truth: the young and robust despise the
chilly for their chilliness, for there is such a thing as physical
pride, and a very unpleasant thing it is in families. These physical
Pharisees are always recommending the roughing and hardening
process, and they would gladly revive for the poor invalid the
cold-water torture of the past.
Without being conscious of it, they are cruel. Chilly people are not
made better by the unsympathetic remarks of those of quicker blood.
There is no good in assuring them that the cold is healthy and
seasonable. They feel keenly the half-joking imputation of cosseting,
though perhaps they are too inert and miserable to defend themselves.
Strong walking exercise is the remedy always proposed. Many cannot
take it. Others make a laudable effort to follow the prescription, and
perhaps during it feel a glow of warmth to which in the housethough
the house is thoroughly warmedthey are strangers. But half an hour
after their return home the tide of life has receded again, and they
are as chilly and nervous as before.
Nevertheless, they have passed through an experience which, if they
would consider it, indicates their relief, if not their cure. While
out-of-doors they thought it necessary to cover their feet with warm
hosiery and thick boots, the head with a bonnet and veil, their hands
with gloves and a fur muff, their body with some fur or wadded garment
half an inch thick. In short, when they went out they imitated Nature,
and protected themselves as she does animals.
But just as soon as they return home they uncover their head and
hands, replace the warm, heavy clothing of the feet with some of a more
elegant but far colder quality, and take off altogether the thick warm
garments worn out-of-doors. A bear that should follow the same course
when it went home to its snug subterranean den would naturally enough
die of some pulmonary disease. Nations which are subjected to long and
severe winters have learned the more natural and excellent way. The
Laplander keeps on his fur, the Russian his wadded garment, the Tartar
his sheep-skin, the Shetlander goes about in his house in his wadmal.
It is only in our high state of civilization that men and women divest
themselves of half their clothing with the thermometer below zero, and
then run to the fire to warm their freezing hands and feet.
If warm clothing protects us out of the house, it will do the same
in the house; and it is no more coddling, and much more sensible and
satisfactory than cowering over a grate. Under the head-dress a silk
skullcap is a most effective protection against draughts, and would
prevent many an attack of neuralgia. A silk or wash-leather vest will
keep the body at a more equable temperature than the best fire. A shawl
to most middle-aged ladies is a graceful toilet adjunct even in the
house, and it is capable of retaining as well as of imparting much
warmth. When very chilly after removal of outside wraps, or from any
other cause, try a wadded dressing-gown over the usual clothing. In
five minutes the added comfort will be recognized.
The secret is, then, to keep the body at its proper temperature in
the house by the adoption of sufficient warm clothing, instead of
trusting to artificially heated atmosphere. No one will be more liable
to take cold out of the house because she has been warm in the house.
There is no more sense in shivering in-doors in order to prepare the
body to endure the out-door climate than there would be in sleeping
with too few blankets for fear of increasing the sense of cold when out
A stuffy room, with air constantly heated to 75°, is the most
efficacious invention ever devised for ruining health. But it is
equally true that habitual warmth is the very best preserver of
constitutional strength in middle and old age; and undoubtedly this is
best maintained by a temperature of 68° and plenty of clothing.
A very important aid to warmth is a proper diet. Many women who
suffer continually from a sense of chill, below the tide of healthy
life, have yet constantly at hand an abundance of nourishing food. But
they eat one day at one hour, the next at another; they don't care what
they eat, and take anything a flippant-minded cook chooses to send
them; they wait for some one when themselves hungry, out of mere
domestic courtesy; and when their husbands are from home they take tea
and biscuits because it is not worth while giving servants the trouble
of cooking for them alone. In all these and many similar ways vitality
is continually lost, and with every loss of vitality there is a
corresponding access of slow, chilly, shivering inertia.
It is a great mistake that women are taught from childhood that it
is meritorious in their sex to conceal their own wants, and to postpone
their own convenience to that of fathers, brothers, husbands, and even
servants. For in the end they break down, and are left in a state of
ill health in which all the wheels of life run slow. The trouble, in a
sentence, is that women have no wivesno one to remind them
when they are in a draught, or come in with wet feet, no one to get
them a warm drink when chilly, and ward off the little ills (which soon
become great ones) by loving, thoughtful, constant care and attention.
All women know how hard it is to live the usual life of work and
amusement in a physical condition of far below the requisite strength.
Nothing induces this condition like chronic chill. In it no vitality
can be gained, and very much may be continually lost. Therefore every
plan should be tried which promises to raise the temperature to a
healthy standard. Try the effect of a room heated to 68°, and plenty of
warm, constantly warm clothing.