Cleanliness And Health
( Originally Published 1920 )
The Wooden Horse of Troy.—Once upon a time the armies of the Greeks were at war with a people called the Trojans, who lived in the powerful city of Troy. For a long while the Greeks camped outside the walls of the city and tried to capture it, but the Trojans with spears and arrows and great stones drove them off and killed some of their bravest leaders.
At last Ulysses, one of the wisest of the Greeks, thought of a plan by which to capture the city through a trick. The Greeks pretended to be giving up the attack, and their ships sailed away and hid behind an island near by. The Trojans, thinking the war was over, poured out of the city where they had been shut up and eagerly examined the deserted camp of the Greeks. In this camp they found a very strange thing, an enormous wooden horse.
They were curious about this horse, for no one could think what it might be for. Some wanted to bring it ' into the city as a prize; others were afraid and advised that it be left on the seashore. At last they were persuaded that it would be a fine thing to have the wooden horse in the city. So they managed with great difficulty to get it inside the walls and ended the day with feasts and rejoicing.
Now this is what the clever Greeks had done. The great horse was hollow, and inside it were Greek soldiers. In the night when the Trojans were all asleep, these soldiers came out and opened the gates of the city to the rest of the Greeks, who had sailed back and landed again after nightfall. In this way the mighty city of Troy was at last taken.
What do you suppose this story has to do with keeping well? Just this. The disease germs are our enemies, just as the Greeks were the enemies of the people of Troy. We can keep them out, just as the Trojans could have kept out the Greeks; but very often we do what the Trojans did., We bring the enemy into the city; we put the germs of disease right into our own mouths. Let us see how we can be on our guard against doing anything so foolish.
The Camp of the Enemy. The Trojans knew that the wooden horse had been made by the Greeks and left by them in the camp, and they ought to have been on the watch for some danger from it. Where should we look for our enemies, the disease microbes, so that we may not let them get into our bodies?
You learned in the last chapter that these disease microbes always come from the bodies of other people. In most cases, it is the discharges from the nose and throat in which our invisible enemies lie hidden. The spray thrown out in coughing and sneezing, the matter coughed up, and the material that soils the handkerchief—these are the original sources of infection. Any one who has a cold or any other sickness should take the greatest care to avoid spreading these discharges.. People should always cough or sneeze in a handkerchief and not in some one else's face. They should not kiss other people or shake hands with them when suffering from any germ disease. They should not leave soiled handkerchiefs about or handle unnecessarily anything that other people may have to handle afterward.
In some diseases, like typhoid fever, the germs are in the discharges from the bowels and bladder, and this is the reason why every one should take the greatest care to wash the hands thoroughly after using the toilet.
Your Busy Fingers.—The fingers are among the busiest and most useful parts of your body. Writing, sewing, playing the piano, carrying things, and holding things—there are few waking hours when they are not serving you. In the course of the day they handle many things, and many of these things are dirty. Nearly everything you touch has microbes on it. Most of them, of course, are harmless germs; but often there will be other kinds that have come from some person who was coming down with a disease or who was a carrier of the germs of disease. Then if you are not careful, those busy fingers of yours may play the part of the wooden horse and carry the enemy right to your mouth, or to the piece of bread or the apple that is going into your mouth.
This is the reason why older people are right in saying to you so often, "Wash your hands, Johnny," or "Your hands are dirty, Susan." It is not simply that they are fussy about your looks, though dirty hands are not very pleasant to look at.
Above all, it is important to wash those busy fingers very carefully before handling food that is to go into your mouth. There is no rule more important than the rule that The hands should be thoroughly washed before you eat. It does not matter whether your hands look clean or not. There might be millions of germs there, without your being able to see them. The next time that it seems a bother to go and wash your hands before lunch or before eating an apple, remember the Trojan horse. Don't let the microbes play a trick on you. Scrub them away with warm water and soap. Do a good thorough job of it, and then wipe your hands on a dean towel. All the good of the washing may be undone if you use a towel that some one else has used, for then a good supply of his germs may be rubbed on your hands, just at the time when you think they have been cleaned.
The Mouth as the Gateway to the Body.—Since it is generally by way of the mouth that the germs of disease find their way into the body, we ought to guard our mouths just as carefully as the Trojans guarded the gates of their city, before they made their great mistake about the wooden horse.
There is no more disagreeable trick, and no more dangerous trick, than the habit many children have of picking at nose or mouth and putting into the mouth pencils, pins, money, marbles, and all sorts of dirty things. Just think a little what the history of some of these things may have been. The pencil was perhaps used last by another child who had the same bad habit of putting things into his mouth. He may have been coming down with diphtheria, and if so, you will put the germs of diphtheria right into your own mouth if you put the pencil there. Or the penny may have been dropped on the street and may have rolled through a place where the germs of tuberculosis had been discharged by a consumptive who had spit on the side-walk.
You never know when things like this may happen. It is absolutely impossible not to handle many things that are dirty; but you can keep them from your lips. The only safe rule is: Let nothing go to your mouth except clean food and your toothbrush. Let nothing go to your nose except a clean handkerchief.
Clean Food.—It is very necessary, of course, that the food which is to go into your mouth should itself be clean and free from harmful microbes. Food that has been handled by a sick person or a carrier may easily pass the disease germs on to some one else. Milk has often spread disease to hundreds of people at a time; and so has water, in cases where it has been polluted by sewers empty ing into the stream or pond from which the water was taken.
A person who is ing cup is one of the best ways to feeling ill should never pass germs from one mouth to handle food that is to be eaten by other people; and since one may be a carrier without knowing it, the hands should always be washed before preparing food.
In buying foods, particularly fruits and other foods that are eaten raw, it is a good plan to avoid those that are exposed in the open street, or in the store, to flies and dust. Think where the fly that walks over a fine bunch of grapes may have been walking last! In many cities the law requires that all such foods must be kept under glass or covered in some other way. The same care should be taken after the foods have been brought home, for a fly in your kitchen may be just as dangerous as a fly in the grocery store.
Spoiled foods are likely to contain germs that make people ill, and so it is important that foods should be kept in a cool place and not kept too long. Chopped or minced food should be watched carefully, for it is particularly apt to decay. If any food is the least bit spoiled, it should be thrown away.
Since the most dangerous kind of dirt is the material from the mouth of another person, a drinking glass or cup that has been used by some one else is always a dirty thing. Even when it looks quite bright and clear, you would find a great many microbes on the rim where it had touched the lips, if you examined a little piece of the rim under the microscope. Don't be a foolish Trojan and put germs that may be dangerous into your mouth, by using a drinking cup that has been used by others. If you have not a glass of your own and there is no bubble fountain in school, you can learn' to make a very good drinking cup out of paper by folding it as shown in Fig. 66.
Raw Foods and Cooked Foods. It was a very clever man (or woman) who first invented cooking. Cooking not only makes the food taste better and makes it easier to digest, but makes it safer to eat and much less likely to carry the germs of disease. The heat applied in most methods of cooking will destroy any disease germs which might be present. If there is any doubt about the drinking water, it can be made quite safe by boiling it.
Raw milk has probably caused more cases of disease than any other food (except water), for it may carry disease germs not only from milkers and people at the dairy but also from the cow itself, since cows often suffer from tuberculosis. The way to make milk absolutely safe is to pasteurize it. This word, as you would guess, comes from the name of Pasteur. Pasteurizing milk means that it is heated to a temperature a little below boiling and kept hot for about half an hour. If this is done carefully, any disease germs will surely be killed, without harming the taste of the milk. In most cities you can buy good pasteurized milk; but where you cannot, the milk can easily be made safe at home. The bottle of milk should be set in a deep pan of water, and the water should be heated just to boiling. Then let the pan stand for half an hour, after which the milk should be taken out and quickly cooled.
Not all the foods we eat can be made safe by cooking. In fact, it is quite necessary for our health that we should eat some raw foods, since cooking destroys certain food substances the body needs. Raw foods lettuce, celery, apples, pears, and the like—should be carefully washed before eating.
The Care of Cuts and Wounds.—The Greeks might have entered Troy, not through the gateway, but through a hole in the wall, if they could have found one. Just so, harmful microbes may get into our bodies through a cut or a wound anywhere on the surface of the body. The skin is like a wall which keeps the microbes out; but if it is broken, there is always likely to be trouble. When you cut yourself in any way, the place should be washed with clean warm water and then protected from dirt by a clean gauze bandage. If the cut is a bad one, it should be dressed as quickly as possible by a doctor; but if it is a little one and your mother has taken a Red Cross course, perhaps she can put a little iodine on and then dress it herself. In any case, the place should be watched carefully. If it be-comes painful and red and angry, it means that dangerous germs are growing there, and the doctor should be consulted immediately.
Of course, you children who have been learning about microbes would never think of picking at a cut or a scab of any kind, because you will understand how easily such picking may infect the wound with just the kind of germs you want to keep out.