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JAMA 100 Years Ago
October 9, 2002

THE NEW GOSPEL OF DIRT.THE NEW GOSPEL OF DIRT.

Author Affiliations
 

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2002;288(14):1788. doi:10.1001/jama.288.14.1788

A writer announcing himself as a surgeon in one of the great hospitals and professor in a physiomedical college of one of our leading cities and medical centers, has recently given to a metropolitan journal an article nearly two columns long in condemnation of bathing, especially in the winter time. According to him a bath is a perilous thing. It is a custom of an innervating civilization, the natural man gets along without it—the more bath tubs and hot water the weaker the race. We can admit that the habitually unbathed individual is stronger in a sense and to some senses, but our author goes farther and claims that with every hot or cold bath in cold weather we invite pneumonia; that only the excretion loaded cuticle can give the proper protection. He has learned, he says, from actual experiment, on himself and others, that the skin does not need bathing to be clean. Dressing to suit the weather and changing underclothing sufficiently often is all that is needed. Perspiration is also apparently considered as an abnormal symptom, or rather as a bad habit that we must learn how to prevent. To refrain from baths and avoid perspiration are the important rules of hygiene inculcated by the reformer. The conventional hobo best fills the bill, and is therefore, as we may reasonably assume, to be taken as the nearest to the ideal of personal hygiene in actual practice. It would be pleasing to learn how this surgeon manages in his surgical work, or does he find in the abnormal conditions there occurring reason for temporarily abandoning his principles? It is to be hoped he does.

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