Edited by Brian P. Pace, MA, Assistant Editor.
It is probable that man was originally a tropical animal, perfectly
adapted to his environment in a physical point of view, the natural product
of evolution under the conditions in which he lived. Since he has emerged
from his primal state and extended his habitat throughout nearly all latitudes
and climates and has become a garment-wearing animal a host of unnatural and
insanitary possibilities has arisen. The question of clothing, what to wear
and how to wear it, has an importance altogether aside from the social and
esthetic, and even from some of the ordinarily recognized considerations of
comfort that commonly govern our selection. The hygienic choice of clothing,
when it is not interfered with by conventional or economic or other factors,
is usually a rule of thumb procedure, that takes little or no account of the
chances or consequences of error. This is more especially true in our so-called
temperate climates, where every extreme of temperature is experienced, often
within the compass of a few days or weeks or in some localities even a day.
The result is a sacrifice of human comfort, health and even of human life
that is none the less formidable and real because it is unappreciated even
by the victims themselves. The average layman's idea of hygiene is ordinarily
that it is a matter that concerns diet, water-supply, drainage, etc., and
the subject of clothing is one of the very last that occurs to him under this
head. The relative importance attributed to these other matters by sanitarians
encourages this error, and it may be asked whether, as physicians, we are
not guilty of forgetting or condoning some of the commoner sins against good
health in this regard; our familiarity with them has led to their neglect.
We change our summer and winter costumes, for example, according to the calendar
or our individual whims and feelings, and the result is often a crop of lung
and bronchial affections and the aggravation of those already existing. According
to RUBNER, the most recent writer who has treated the subject systematically,
the average man is, as a rule, too warmly clothed in summer, and this, even
with good ventilation, is an evil that should be avoided, and tends to increased
perspiration and abnormal activity of the skin, which in many ways may lead
to evil consequences. With ill ventilated clothing confining the perspiration
and its excretions, we have a condition that interprets itself, often to our
unaided senses, as hardly more compatible in principle with perfect sanitation
than is an undrained cellar sending its exhalations into the living rooms
above. . . .
THE HYGIENE OF CLOTHING. JAMA. 1998;279(20):1668B. doi:10.1001/jama.279.20.1668
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