The vapor bath is much better; and probably has quite as good an effect as the common warm bath. The trouble and expense of procuring the necessary apparatus is somewhat greater, however, as a mere bathing tub costs but little, and can be made by every father who possesses common ingenuity. But whatever may be the expense, it is indispensable in every family; and whenever the pores of the skin are obstructed, a vapor bathing apparatus is equally desirable.
The medicated vapor bath is sometimes used; but I am not now treating of infants who are sick, but of those who are in a state of health.
The common warm bath is sometimes medicated by putting in salt. This, of course, renders the water more stimulating to the skin; but except when the perspiration is checked, or the skin peculiarly inactive from some other cause—in other words, unless we are sick—it is seldom expedient to use it.
There is one substitute for the bathing tub, in the case of the cold bath. I refer to the use of a wet cloth or sponge, applied rapidly to the whole surface of the body. When this is done, the skin should be wiped thoroughly dry immediately afterwards, as in the case of complete immersion.
The application of either a cloth or a sponge, filled with warm water, to the skin, in this manner, even if continued for several minutes together, is less efficacious than a continuous immersion. I repeat it—no family ought to be without conveniences for bathing in warm water daily. I speak now of every member of the family, young and old, as well as the infant; and I refer particularly to the summer season: though I do not think the practice ought to be wholly discontinued during the winter.
It will still be objected that this care of, and attention to the young, in reference to health—this provision for bathing daily, and care to see that it is performed—can never be afforded by the laboring portion of the community. But I shall as strenuously insist on the contrary; and trust I shall, in the sequel, produce reasons which will be satisfactory.
The great difficulty is, to convince parents that these things are vastly more productive of health and happiness to their children—more truly necessaries—than a great many things for which they now expend their time and money. There is, and always has been—except, perhaps, among the Jews, in the earliest periods of the history of that wonderful nation—a strange disposition to overlook the happiness of the young. It is not necessary to represent this dereliction as peculiar to modern times, for we find traces of the same thing thousands of years ago.
The Roman emperors—Dioclesian in particular—could make provision for bathing, to an extent which now astonishes us; but for whom? For whom, I repeat it, was incurred the enormous expense of fitting up and keeping in repair accommodations for bathing at once 18,000 people? For adults; and for adults alone. I do not say that children were not admitted, in any case; but I say they were not contemplated in these arrangements. Nothing was done—not a single thing—that would not have been done, had there been no child under ten years of age in the whole empire.