Welcome to summer! It came in with a genuine heatwave here in the Northeast, but heat exhaustion and sunburn aren’t the only ailments prevalent during the summer; Dr. James C. Wilson of Philadelphia wrote a whole book on the subject called (cheerfully enough!) The Summer and Its Diseases.
It’s worth noting that Wilson’s text is one of a series which featured titles like Hearing, and How to Keep It, Long Life and How to Reach It, and The Winter and Its Dangers – the question would seem to be what happened to the companion volumes on spring and fall?
In the first few pages, Wilson repeats two time-honored medical folk traditions — bad smells cause bad health and lightning will curdle milk. From this well-aged wisdom, he turns to speak approvingly of the customs of perennially hotter countries in curbing activity in the hottest part of the day, adapting diet to suit the weather, and so on: “In tropical countries, the daily life of the people is arranged in accordance with the climate.” (11) Even here, admittedly, Wilson cannot help repeating some adages about “tropical countries” – “…the struggle for wealth is scarcely known…the keen stimulus of competition…is but slightly felt…” (11)
Wilson also spends a surprisingly long time in his first chapter rhapsodizing about the various retreats from the heat of the city: the farm, the seaside, the mountains, and so on: “For you, my boys, the farm is an unending, summer-long delight.” (16)
Wilson’s text is divided into several chapters, each discussing a particular ailment — sunstroke, diarrhea, etc. He adopts straightforward layman’s language for the most part, describing the likely symptoms and progress of the disease in question and then the best methods of treatment and, for future reference, prevention.
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