CLOTH

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CLOTH. (See Cotton, Woollen, Silk, &c.) CLOTHING. A veiy striking fact, exhibited by the bills of mortality, is the very large proportion of persons who die of consumption. It is not our intention to enter into any general remarks upon the nature of that fatal disease. In very many cases, the origin of a consumption is an ordinaiy cold; and that cold is frequently taken through the want of a proper attention to clothing, particularly in females. We shall, therefore, offer a few general remarks upon this subject, so important to the health of all classes of persons.Nothing is more necessary to a comfortable state of existence, than that the body should be kept in nearly a uniform temperature. The Almighty Wisdom, which made the senses serve as instruments of pleasure for our gratification, and of pain for our protection, has rendered the feelings arising from excess or deficiency of heat so acute, that we instinctively seek shelter from the scorching heat and freezing cold. We bathe our limbs in the cool stream, or clothe our bodies with the warm fleece. We court the breeze, or carefully avoid it. But no efforts to mitigate the injurious effects of heat or cold would avail us, if nature had not furnished us, in common with other animals (in the peculiar functions of the skin and lungs), with a power of preserving the heat of the body uniform under almost eveiy variety of temperature to which the atmosphere is liable. The skin, by increase of the perspiration, carries off the excess of heat; the lungs, by decomposing the atmosphere, supply the loss ; so that the internal parts of the body are preserved at a temperature of about 98°, under all circumstances. In addition to the important share which the function of perspiration has in regulating the heat of the body, it serves the further purpose of an outlet to the constitution, by which it gets rid of matters that are no longer useful in its economy. The excretory function of the skin is of such paramount importance to health, that we ought, at all times, to direct our attention to the means of securing its being duly performed; for if the matters that ought to be thrown out of the body by the pores of the skin are retained, they invariably prove injurious. When speaking of the excrementitious matter of the skin, we do not mean the sensible moisture which is poured out in hot weather, or when the body is heated by exercise, but a matter which is too subtile for the senses to take cognizance of, which is continually passing off from every part of the body, and which has been called the insensible perspiration. This insensible perspiration is the true excretion of the skin. A suppression of the insensible perspiration is a prevailing symptom in almost all diseases. It is the sole cause of many fevers. Very many chronic diseases have no other cause. In warm weather, and particularly in hot climates, the functions of the skin being prodigiously increased, all the consequences of interrupting them are proportionably dangerous. Besides the function of perspiration, the skin has, in common with every other surface of the body, a process, by means of appropriate vessels, of absorbing, or taking up, and conveying into the bloodvessels, any thing that may be in contact with it. It is also the part en which the organ of feeling or touch is distributed. The skin is supplied with glands, which provide an oily matter, that renders it impervious to water, and thus secures the evaporation of the sensible per spiration. Were this oily matter deficient, the skin would become sodden, as is the case when it has been removeda fact to be observed in the hands of washerwomen, when it is destroyed by the solvent powers of the soap. The hair serves as so many capillary tubes to conduct the perspired fluid from the skin. The three powers of the skin, perspiration, absorption and feeling, are so dependent on each other, that it is impossible for one to be deranged without the other two being also disordered. For if a man be exposed to a frosty atmosphere, in a state of inactivity, or without sufficient clothing, till his limbs become stiff and his skin insensible, the vessels that excite the perspiration and the absorbent vessels partake of the torpor that has seized on the nerves of feeling; nor will they regain their lost activity till the sensibility be completely restored. The danger of suddenly attempting to restore sensibility to frozen parts is well known. If the addition of warmth be not very gradual, the vitality of the part will be destroyed. This consideration of the functions of the skin will at once point out the necessity of an especial attention, in a fickle climate, to the subject of clothing. Every one's experience must have shown him how extremely capricious the weather is in this countiy. Our experience of this great, inconstancy in the temperature of the air ought to have instructed us how to secure ourselves from its effects. The chief end proposed by clothing ought to be protection from the cold; and it never can be too deeply impressed on the mind (especially of those who have the care of children), that a degree of cold that amounts to shivering cannot be felt, under any circumstances, without injury to the health, and that the strongest constitution cannot resist the benumbing influence of a sensation of cold constantly present, even though it be so moderate as not to occasion immediate complaint, or to induce the sufferer to seek protection from it. This degree of cold often lays the foundation of the whole host of chronic diseases, foremost amongst which are found scrofula and consumption. Persons engaged in sedentary employments must be almost constantly under the influence of this degree of cold, unless the apartment in which they work is heated to a degree that subjects them, on leaving it, to all the dangers of a sudden transition, as it were, from summer to winter. The inactivity to which such persons are condemned, by weakening the body, renders it incapableof maintaining the degree of warmth necessary to comfort, without additional clothing or fire. Under such circumstances, a sufficient quantity of clothing, of a proper quality, with the apartment moderately warmed and well ventilated, ought to be preferred, for keeping up the requisite degree of warmth, to any means of heating the air of the room so much as to render any increase of clothing unnecessary. To heat the air of an apartment much above the ordinary temperature of the atmosphere, we must shut out the external air; the air also becomes extremely rarefied and dry; which circumstances make it doubly dangerous to pass from it to the cold, raw, external air. But in leaving a moderately well warmed room, if properly clothed, the change is not felt; and the full advantage of exercise is derived from any opportunity of taking it that may occur.The only kind of dress that can afford the protection required by the changes of temperature to which high northern climates are liable, is woollen. Nor will it be of much avail that woollen be worn, unless so much of it be worn, and it be so worn, as effectually to keep out the cold. Those who would receive the advantage which the wearing of woollen is capable of affording, must wvear it next the skin; for it is in this situation only that its healthpreserving power can be felt. The great advantages of woollen cloth are briefly these:the readiness with which it allows the escape of the matter of perspiration through its texture ; its power of preserving the sensation of warmth to the skin under all circumstances ; the difficulty there is in making it thoroughly wet; the slowness with which it conducts heat; the softness, lightness and pliancy of its texture. Cotton cloth, though it differs but little from linen, approaches nearer to the nature of woollen, and, on that account, must be esteemed as the next best substance of which clothing may be made. Silk is the next in point of excellence, hut it is very inferior to cotton in every respect. Linen possesses the contrary of most of the properties enumerated as excellences in woollen. It retains the matter of perspiration in its texture, and speedily becomes imbued with it; it gives an unpleasant sensation of cold to the skin; it is very readily saturated with moisture, and it conducts heat too rapidly. It is, indeed, the worst of all the substances in use, being the least qualified to answer the purposes of clothing. There are several prevailing errors in the mode of adapting clothes to the figure of the body, partk'ilarly amongst females. Clothes shouli be so made as to allow the body the fuk exercise of all its motions. The neglect of this precaution is productive of more mischief than is generally believed. Th°, misery and suffering arising from it begin while we are yet in the cradle. When they have escaped from the nurses' hands, boys are left to nature. Girls have, for a while, the same chance as boys, in a freedom from bandages of all kinds ; but, as they approach to womanhood, they are again put into trammels in the forms of stays. The bad consequences of the pressure of stays are not immediately obvious, but they are not the less certain on that account. The girl writhes and twists to avoid the pinching which must necessarily attend the commencement of wearing stays tightly laced. The posture in which she finds ease is the one in which she will constantly be, until, at last, she will not be comfortable in any other, even when she is freed from the pressure that originally obliged her to adopt it. In this way most of the deformities to which young people are subject originate; and, unfortunately, it is not often that they are perceived until they have become considerable, and have existed too long to admit of remedy.