Front Page Titles (by Subject) DXV: PREPARATORY NOTES AND HINTS FOR WRITING A PAPER CONCERNING WHAT IS CALLED CATCHING COLD - The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. VI Letters and Misc. Writings 1772-1775
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DXV: PREPARATORY NOTES AND HINTS FOR WRITING A PAPER CONCERNING WHAT IS CALLED CATCHING COLD - Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. VI Letters and Misc. Writings 1772-1775 
The Works of Benjamin Franklin, including the Private as well as the Official and Scientific Correspondence, together with the Unmutilated and Correct Version of the Autobiography, compiled and edited by John Bigelow (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). The Federal Edition in 12 volumes. Vol. VI (Letters and Misc. Writings 1772-1775).
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PREPARATORY NOTES AND HINTS FOR WRITING A PAPER CONCERNING WHAT IS CALLED CATCHING COLD
Definition of a Cold
It is a siziness and thickness of the blood, whereby the smaller vessels are obstructed, and the perspirable matter retained, which being retained offends both by its quantity and quality; by quantity, as it outfills the vessels, and by its quality, as part of it is acrid, and being retained, produces coughs and sneezing by irritation.
How this Siziness is Produced
1. By being long exposed in a cold air, without exercise; cold thickens glue.
2. By a diminished perspiration, either first from breathing and living in moist air, or, second, from the clogging of the pores by clammy sweat dried on and fastening down the scales of the skin; or, thirdly, by cold constringing the pores partially or totally, sleeping or waking; or, fourthly, by having eat food of too gross particles for free perspiration, as oysters, pork duck, etc. People are found frequently costive after much bathing.
3. By repletion, as when more is thrown into the habit by eating and drinking than common perspiration is capable of discharging in due time; whence the vessels are distended beyond their spring, and the quantity of contained fluid, that should be briskly moved to preserve or acquire a due thinness, is too weighty for their force, whence a slow motion,—thence viscidity. This repletion is increased by a constipation of the belly happening at the same time. In an approaching cold, more water is made than usual.
4. By cooling suddenly in the air after exercise. Exercise quickening the circulation, produces more perspirable matter in a given time than is produced in rest. And though more is likewise usually discharged during exercise, yet on sudden quitting of exercise, and standing in the air, the circulation and production of perspirable matter still continuing some time, the over quantity is retained. It is safer not to go into water too cold.
5. By particular effluvia in the air, from some unknown cause. General colds throughout a country. By being in a coach close, or small room with a person having a cold.
6. By relaxation of the solids, from a warm and moist air, so that they are too weak to give due motion to the fluids.
Of partial colds affecting parts only of the body.
Causes of feverishness attending colds.
Ill consequences often attending colds, as pleurisies, consumptions, etc. Some never taking cold, some frequently; cause of the difference.
Present remedies for a cold should be warming, diluting, bracing.
Means of preventing cold; temperance, choice of meats and drinks, warm rooms, and lodging and clothing in winter; dry air, care to keep the belly open, and frequent discharge of water; warm bathing to cleanse the skin; rubbing after sweat, especially in the spring.
Difficulties that first put me on thinking on this subject. People get cold by less, and not by more, viz.:
Few of these effects take place if the vessels are kept empty.
Reapers in Pennsylvania:—
Taking cold.—The disorder only called so in English, and in no other language.
American Indians in the woods, and the whites in imitation of them, lie with their feet to the fire in frosty nights, and take no cold while they can keep their feet warm.
Feet and hands apt to be cold in that disorder, and why? Is it the siziness, or the greater evaporation?
Hottentots grease themselves,—occasions other evacuations more plentiful. Greasing keeps the body warm. Bad to hold the water too long. Parts colder when first unclothed than afterwards, why?
It was a disgrace among the ancient Persians to cough or spit.
Probably as it argued intemperance.
Vessels when too full leak. Quicksilver through leather. Thin fluid leaked evaporates. Corners of eyes, etc. Sizy will not all evaporate. What is left corrupts. Hence consumptions. Hectic fevers from absorption of putrid pus. It ferments the blood like yeast.
People seldom get cold at sea, though they sleep in wet clothes. Constant exercise, moderate living. Bad cooks. Yet air is very moist. Wet floors. Sea surrounding, etc.
Exercise cures a cold. Bishop Williams riding several times from London, or Exeter, or Salisbury.
Bark good for a cold, taken early.
Particular parts more accustomed to discharge the irritating perspirable matter, as under the arms in some, feet in others, etc.
Experiment of two razors.
Every pain or disorder now ascribed to a cold.
It is the covering excuse of all intemperance.
Numbers of people in a close room, and exercising there, fill the air with putrid particles.
People killed by House of Commons, breathing the air through holes in ceiling.
Think they get cold by coming out of such hot rooms; they get them by being in.
Those who live in hotter rooms (stoves) get no colds.
Germans and all the Northern people.
Alderman and turtle.
People remark they were very well before a cold, and ate hearty. Wonder how they catched it.
Signs of Temperance
Advice for mode of general temperance without appearing too singular.
Supper not bad after preparatory light dinner.
May be rectified by slight breakfast next morning. He must be too full that one excess will much disorder.
Time of great meal mended of late.
One hour variation of compass in twenty years.
After dinner not fit for business.
People from the country get cold when they come to London, and why? Full living, with moist air. London air generally moist, why? Much putrid air in London. Silver, etc.
Cooks and doctors should change maxims.
Common sense more common among the common Scotch.
Those who do not compare cannot conceive the difference between themselves and themselves in full or spare living.
Chess—Impatience of deliberation because more difficult. Writing, etc.
Most follies arise from full feeding. Reasons pro and con not at all present.
Fasting strengthens reason rather than subdues passion.
People often do not get cold when they think they do, and do when they think they do not.
Causes of cold are primary and secondary.
Colds are of different kinds, putrid and plethoric.
Scarce any air abroad so unwholesome as air in a close room often breathed.
Warm air dissolves more moisture than cold.
In hot countries men wrap themselves in wet sheets to sleep.
A general service to redeem people from the slavish fear of getting cold by showing them where the danger is not, and that where it is, it is in their power to avoid it.
Surfeit, an expression formerly used, now laid aside.
Costiveness occasioning colds, how to be prevented.
Colds formerly called rheums and catarrhs.
Particular foods said to engender rheums.
Query.—Is Mr. Wood more or less subject to catch cold since he betook himself to his low diet?
Answer (by Mr. Wood).—He now finds himself much more healthy, and much less liable to catch cold. What few colds he now catches are so very slight, that he is not sensible of them, but from the urine, which is then not so clear.
I caused the above question to be asked Mr. Wood, and obtained the answer. It is the Mr. Wood who lives upon a pound of flour in a pudding.
Dampier, speaking of the customs of the people at Mindanoo (p. 330) says: “You see abundance of people in the river from morning to night washing their bodies or clothes; they strip and stand naked till they have done; then put them on and march out again.”
Dr. Gregory says: “All that class of diseases which arise from catching cold, is only found among the civilized part of mankind. An old Roman or an Indian, in the pursuit of war or hunting, would plunge into a river whilst in a profuse sweat, without fear, and without danger. The greater care we take to prevent catching cold, by the various contrivances of modern luxury, the more we become subject to it. We can guard against cold only by rendering ourselves superior to its influence. There is a striking instance of this in the vigorous constitutions of children who go thinly clad in all seasons and weathers.”
The coats of the vessels are a kind of network, which contains the fluids only when not so pressed as to enlarge the pores of the net, or when the fluids are not so pressed as to break the cohesion of the globules or particles, so as to make them small enough to come through. When the vessels are full, occasioned by a course of full living, they labor in carrying on the circulation; their spring or power of contraction and compressing the fluids they contain, being over strained is weakened, the circulation proceeds more slowly, the fluids thicken and become more gluey, both for want of due churning and because less heat is produced in the body. Such a body requires more aid of clothing and fire to preserve its warmth.
If a person in that state of body walks a mile or two, or uses any other exercise that warms him, the fluids are rarefied by the heat, distend the vessels still more, and the thinner parts of the fluids in tender places force out through the pores of the vessels in form of a gluey water, viz.: at the eyes, within the nose, and within the lungs. This is moderate exercise.
If the exercise is increased it comes through every pore in the skin, and is called sweat.
The more volatile parts of this extravasated fluid evaporate, and fly off in the air; the gluey part remains, thickens, and hardens more or less, as it becomes more or less dry; in the nose and on the lungs, where air is continually coming and going, it soon becomes a mucus, but can hardly grow drier because surrounded with moist parts and supplied with more moisture. What oozes out of the corner of the eye when shut, as in sleep, hardens into what is called a kind of gum, being in fact dry glue.
This in a morning almost sticks the eyelids together.
With such mucous matter the nose is sometimes almost stopped, and must be cleared by strong blowing.
In the windpipe and on the lungs it gathers and is impacted, so as sometimes to induce a continual coughing and hawking to discharge it.
If not easily discharged, but remaining long adhering to the lungs, it corrupts and inflames the parts it is in contact with; even behind the ears and between the parts of the body so constantly in contact, that the perspirable matter, sweat, etc., cannot easily escape from between them; the skin is inflamed by it, and a partial putrefaction begins to take place, they corrupt and ulcerate. The vessels being thus wounded, discharge greater and continual quantities. Hence consumption.
Part of the corrupted matter, absorbed again by the vessels and mixed with the blood, occasions hectic fevers.
When the body has sweated, not from a dissolution of fluids, but from the force above mentioned, as the sweat dries off, some clammy substance remains in the pores, which closes many of them, wholly or in part. The subsequent perspiration is hereby lessened.
The perspirable matter consists of parts approaching to putrefaction, and therefore destined by nature to be thrown off, that living bodies might not putrefy, which otherwise, from their warmth and moisture, they would be apt to do.
These corrupting particles, if continually thrown off, the remainder of the body continues uncorrupt, or approaches no nearer to a state of putrefaction. Just as in boiling water, no greater degree of heat than the boiling heat can be acquired, because the particles that grow hotter, as fast as they become so, fly off in vapor. But if the vapor could be retained, water might be made much hotter, perhaps red-hot, as oil may, which is not so subject to evaporation. So if the perspirable matter is retained it remixes with blood, and produces first, a slight putrid fever, attending always what we call a cold, and when retained in a great degree, more mischievous putrid diseases.
In hot countries, exercise of body with the heat of the climate create much of this putrid perspirable matter, which ought to be discharged. A check is in those countries very pernicious; putrid malignant violent fevers, and speedy death, the consequence.
Its discharge is also checked another way besides that of closing the pores, viz., by being in an air already full of it, as in close rooms containing great numbers of people, play-houses, ball-rooms, etc.
For air containing a quantity of any kind of vapor, becomes thereby less capable of imbibing more of that vapor, and finally will take no more of it.
If the air will not take it off from the body, it must remain in the body; and the perspiration is as effectually stopped, and the perspirable matter as certainly retained, as if the pores were all stopped.
A lock of wet wool contained in a nutmeg-grater, may dry, parting with its moisture through the holes of the grater. But if you stop all those holes with wax it will never dry. Nor, if exposed to the open air, will it dry when the air is as moist as itself. On the contrary, if already dry, and exposed to moist air, it would acquire moisture.
Thus people in rooms heated by a multitude of people, find their own bodies heated; thence the quantity of perspirable matter is increased that should be discharged, but the air, not being changed, grows so full of the same matter, that it will receive no more. So the body must retain it. The consequence is that next day, perhaps sooner, a slight putrid fever comes on, with all the marks of what we call a cold, and the disorder is supposed to be got by coming out of a warm room, whereas it was really taken while in that room.
Putrid ferments beget their like.—Small-pox—Wet rotten paper, containing corrupt glue. The cold fever communicable by the breath to others, etc.
Urine retained, occasions sneezing, etc.
Coughing and spitting continually, marks of intemperance.
People eat much more than is necessary.
Proportionable nourishment and strength is not drawn from great eating.
The succeeding meals force the preceding through half-undigested.
Small meals continue longer in the body, and are more thoroughly digested.
The vessels being roomy can bear and receive without hurt, an accidental excess.
They can concrete more easily.
There is less quantity of corrupting particles produced.