Jan. 23, 1913: Bundle up correctly or catch a cold

  • Blog Post by: Ben Welter
  • December 7, 2013 - 3:19 PM
As Minneapolis health commissioner in the early 1900s, Dr. P.M. Hall preached the “gospel of cleanliness” and worked to make the city a healthier place to live. He was a nationally recognized expert on municipal waste disposal and served as an officer of the American Public Health Association. In 1912, he began writing the “Health and Happiness” column for the Minneapolis Tribune. Over the next seven years, he answered thousands of reader-submitted questions related to “hygiene, sanitation and the prevention of disease.”
Here he addresses “errors in dressing” that can lead to the common cold – and worse.

Health and Happiness

Conducted by Dr. P.M. Hall

Cold Weather Diseases.

Paradoxical as it may seem, the cold season of the year, which is generally accounted our most healthful season, is yet prolific of a proportionately large number of deaths. There needs no further proof of this than the 50 deaths from the diseases of the respiratory system which have already taken place in Minneapolis this month. Forty-three of these deaths were reported as from pneumonia; in four cases, pneumonia was given as a contributory cause of death and, of the three remaining deaths, one was caused by grip, one by acute bronchitis and one by chronic bronchitis.
It is significant that explorers in the Polar regions have returned with the tidings that they found no pneumonia, no grip, no influenza, in those parts. These ailments appear to be diseases peculiar to civilization, clearly due to bad housing, bad living methods, too much food, too much clothing, too little exercise. Undoubtedly one of the most influential causes, and one entirely of our own making, is foul air poisoning. We fail to ventilate our homes, and we generally keep them too warm. Whereas cold air is a tonic, air too overheated is debilitating.
Overshoes Should Be Worn.
Errors in dressing are many times responsible for the cold that may mean the beginning of a serious illness. It is not uncommon to see upon our streets numbers of persons, women and girls more especially, well protected as to their bodies, but illy clad as to their feet. It should be known that colds are readily contracted from exposure of feet and ankles. They should be protected by overshoes or rubbers. Of course, low shoes should not be worn.
Contrary as it may appear to reason, underdressing of the feet is often accompanied by overdressing of other parts of the body. In this particular, men are more apt to err than women. Heavy outer wraps, but not too heavy underclothing, is advised. Cotton next to the skin, rather than woolen, is to be preferred. Wool retains the moisture of perspiration longer than cotton, and when a change of atmosphere takes place, with the skin in this condition, a cold is the inevitable result.
A fact that should be remembered in connection with these diseases is their infections character. There is a courtesy in coughing, spitting and the like that should be observed. Good taste forbids loud-mouthed coughing. It is not necessary and should be classed as a nuisance. The exercise of self-restraint in these respects, by persons suffering from such diseases, would protect others against infections.
Heart Trouble Follows Pneumonia.
Question – I am a young man 20 years old. An attack of pneumonia, followed by rheumatism, left me with valvular leakage of the heart. Nearly two years have elapsed and my heart is in bad condition yet. I have been treated by several physicians, but my condition is such that I can endure no active exercise. Is my case hopeless? Is there no cure for heart leakage? Must I be reconciled to be an invalid the rest of my days? Please give me your candid opinion. Is there any occupation you should recommend for one in my condition? I am greatly troubled with insomnia.
Answer – 1. Many persons with valvular regurgitation, with care, live for years. 2. There is no organ in the body whose functions can be more readily conserved than the heart. 3. By knowing your limitations and observing them, you may live out the length of your days. 4. Any occupation requiring no severe muscular strain.
Many Have Stomach Trouble.
Question – There are thousands reading your health column every day, and I have noticed that, in the majority of cases, people who ask your advice have stomach trouble. I should like to ask if you could not publish something on what to eat, more particularly certain combinations of food that should be avoided. I suppose there are certain food mixtures that would upset the best of stomachs.
Answer – In the course of time this department will publish a series of articles dealing with questions of diet.
The Cold Morning Bath.
Question – Has a cold bath taken in the morning any tendency to make a person thin? Would you recommend a cold bath for a consumptive? If a person has a weak heart, is it dangerous for him to take breathing exercises? An elderly man who works all day is troubled with sleeplessness. Could you suggest anything to induce sleep?
Answer – 1. No. 2. Not a cold tub bath, but a cool sponge. 3. No, if not too violent. 4. A hot water bag at the feet would help.


The lower animals “hibernate.” Men and women should “ventilate.”
Shivering women
These four women, stranded at Cedar Avenue and Lake Street during a Minneapolis transit strike in January 1938, were perhaps ventilating their lower extremities a bit too much. (Minneapolis Tribune photo)

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