This section is from the book "Health", by W. H. Coefield.
From all I have said about children, you wijl see that I believe, and that those whom I have quoted believe, that they require a great deal of tact and care, and that the prevalent idea that children ought to be hardened by exposure to cold, etc., and by being given various kinds of food, and that they will thus be rendered stronger and more healthy during the rest of their lives, is quite an erroneous one.
Dr. Inman has put into very plain language his opinion of this method of treating children. If you coddle an infant and take care of it, it will very likely grow to be a strong healthy adult; but if you try and harden it by exposing it to cold, and by not clothing it properly, and in various other ways, you must not be surprised if you " soon have to measure it for a long box." That is a plain way of speaking which has rather gone out of fashion of late.
Let me enforce the importance of this by a tale. Once there was a very sickly, weakly, puny infant born, and the nurse who was present was sent off in a great hurry for a doctor, because the infant seemed so ill. She went, thinking that the infant would be dead before she could bring any doctor to see it. That infant was properly taken care of, and grew up to be Sir Isaac Newton. I leave you to imagine where the world would have been if that infant had been treated with the hardening method, which we all know is so prevalent now-a-days.
Nature and nature's laws lay hid in night; God said, Let Newton be, and all was light.
We go on then: you ipust remember that we are dealing with the growing periods of life, and not only do the wastes of the body require to be replenished, but the body has to increase in weight, and so a good deal of food is required; and, like infants, young people require a good deal of food, and require food more often in the day than older people-four meals, or in some instances five, are certainly not too much for them-and they have to digest and absorb that food; and to do this their circulation and respiration have to be kept up to their proper degree of action; so they require a good deal of exercise, and exercise in the open air is one of the most important things for children. The degeneracy of the population of our large factory towns, which has been pointed out of late years, is chiefly due to the fact, in the first place, that infants are not properly fed, and, secondly, that the children do not have either a sufficient amount of food or a sufficient amount of exercise; they are employed too early at hard labour, and therefore grow up stunted.
A good deal of sleep is required by young children. Nine hours is commonly laid down by the best authors as the proper amount; and it is extremely important that their mental work should not be too prolonged.
They should have about the same amount of time for physical exercise as for mental work, and it should be divided during the day. The short-time system, which is gaining ground in so many schools now-a-days, is, I am quite sure, a correct principle. Children should not be kept hard at their studies for more than two hours at a time.
A great amount of mischief then, again, arises from the position that children assume when sitting; they are very apt to take up wrong positions, and so get curvature of the spine. A very important thing, too, which is often neglected in schools and offices, is the direction in which the light comes on to the tables or desks; when a child (or a grown-up person) is sitting at a table, the light should not come from the back, or else his shadow is on the paper, and he twists on one side, and so gradually gets curvature of the spine; the light should not come from the front, or else it is reflected by the paper into his eyes and dazzles him; it should not come from the right side, because it causes the shadow of his hand to fall on that part of the paper on which he is writing, but the light should come from the left-hand side. This appears a small matter, but it is an exceedingly important one, as it is connected, you see, with such a serious disease as curvature of the spine.
Infectious fevers are very prevalent in childhood. Typhoid fever is more prevalent than it was in infancy, and scrofulous diseases are very prevalent among children who live in bad hygienic conditions, as those who live in damp houses, or who are badly fed; and especially among children who are descended from a scrofulous family.
Consumption is also prevalent, and more especially so where children live in overcrowded rooms.
During childhood the second set of teeth come out, and we have the same diseases due to dentition as when the first set were being cut-convulsions and general derangements and disturbances of the digestive system. While the second set of teeth are being cut very serious disturbances may occur to children's systems, and you must not be surprised if children are fretful and troublesome without any apparent cause at about five years of age, when their jaws contain both sets of teeth at once, with the exception of the wisdom teeth, when forty-eight teeth are growing in their jaws all at once. When you know the trouble of any little thing wrong with either of your teeth, you can easily imagine the trouble and pain it causes a child when twenty-eight permanent teeth are growing in the jaws, and displacing the twenty temporary ones.
At this time, too, the bad effects of rickets in infancy show themselves in a very marked degree. Eickets is a disease in which the bones are unable to take sufficient of the lime salts out of the blood, so that they are too soft, and one of the worst effects of this is, that when the external air presses upon the chest walls during expiration, and the lungs inside collapse, it bends the soft ribs, and so pushes the breast-bone forwards and makes the child pigeon-breasted, so that the lungs cannot expand as far as they did before; the heart is likewise impeded in its action. You see, then, that rickets is a very serious disease, and its prevention of extreme importance. You must take the words of Sir William Jenner, that it is the first of many preventible diseases, and ought to be prevented. Another evil of rickets is, that the bones of the legs of ricketty children being soft, when they walk, which they are not inclined to do, the weight of their body is too much for the soft bones in the legs, and so you have crooked-legged children.