The Destroyer of Germs - Fresh Air and Sunshine: An Era Gone By

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    Have you ever wondered what books and information nurses studied to pass their NCLEX exam when it was first began? In my previous article, “What is Nux Vomica? State Board Questions From the Turn of the Century: An Era Gone By”, we began our journey into the past. In this article, we will be exploring some questions from a particular category called “Hygiene and Bacteriology.”

    The Destroyer of Germs - Fresh Air and Sunshine: An Era Gone By

    Nursing focus and objectives were the same in the early 1900s as they are now, however elementary in comparison they may seem. Safe patient care and treatment are of utmost importance and has been since nursing began. Nurses who read the questions I will share from the book, Lippincott's Nursing Manuals, State Board Questions and Answers For Nurses written in 1927,may raise an eyebrow, but these issues and questions were taken just as serious as the ones we study today.

    The chapter titled, "Hygiene and Bacteriology", is about the preservation of the health of the individual (nurse) by "personal prophylaxis". In this book, personal hygiene is categorized as a branch of medicine. Most of the questions are about how a nurse should conduct herself/himself.

    Question: "What general and special hygienic precautions should be observed by nurses during their training and while practicing their profession in order to preserve their own health?"
    Answer: "Maintain normal resistance of the body by being clean, get a reasonable amount of sunlight, fresh air, sleep, exercise, pure water, and digestible food. Avoid infection by wearing sterile clothes, maintaining a rigid technique to avoid infecting surroundings after handling infectious equipment. Sterilize the hands and immunize such as taking the smallpox typhoid vaccines and diphtheria antitoxin".

    While making the reader giggle, there is good advice in the answer. The fact that it is actually an exam question may seem foreign to us, because it seems obvious to us. Good hand washing is drilled into us as a society from childhood, not just as nurses.

    Question: "What are nature's best common destroyers of disease germs?
    Answer: "Fresh air and sunshine are nature's best common destroyer of disease germs".

    Fresh air and sunshine are wonderful, but sometimes we need a bit more help to destroy those germs.

    Question: Name several factors which may predispose a person to disease".
    Answer: Gluttony, excess alcohol or other stimulants, fatigue from muscular exertion, loss of sleep and exposure".

    This issue takes us back to basics. Actually, these reasons for disease are often not talked about in the doctor office, instead, a pill is given, or a surgery is performed. Human behavior hasn't changed, addictions remain the same. Although we now know there are many more factors involved in a person being predisposed to a disease such as genetics, as is the human condition to be self-destructive.

    Question: "What keeps our body warm?
    Answer: "We are kept warm by reason of the heat generated in the chemical changes that take place in our body tissues".

    They knew there was a chemical process, but hadn't yet discovered much about metabolism and the use of ATP by our muscles to generate heat.

    Question: "What is the legal status in some states of the public drinking cup?"
    Answer: "The public drinking cup is very properly forbidden by law in many states".

    Wow, hard to imagine that at one time everyone in town shared a water cup. Cholera and diphtheria were spread this way. In the early 1900s, Jersey City, New Jersey began to sterilize water which led to the decrease of disease across the United States.

    Question: " What substances antagonistic toward bacteria does the body contain?"
    Answer: "The body contains alexins, or opsonins, and antitoxins".

    What we know about our immune system is vastly more than the above-mentioned molecules.

    Conclusion

    We hear that the "good old times" was simpler. Compared to our overstimulated, wired world, it was. The tradeoff is that we have a greater knowledge of the how the body works as well as state of the art treatment. Imagine in another 100 years what the medical field will look like. Someone will be looking at our NCLEX questions and giggling or scratching their heads. We can only imagine what diseases won't exist anymore, what we will be using for treatments, or how those treatments will be accomplished.

    I hope you have enjoyed reading these questions as much as I have. Look for more articles that will take you back in time!
    Last edit by Joe V on Jun 14
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    14 Comments

  3. by   ponymom
    Thanks
  4. by   middleagednurse
    Interesting.
  5. by   OldDude
    When I think about the activity "bobbing for apples" I think about the "public drinking cup." Blech!

    Good article!
  6. by   ruby_jane
    Delightful! Actually, fresh air and sunshine were about all we had to treat tuberculosis until the advent of streptomycin and isoniazid.
  7. by   AceOfHearts<3
    Quote from OldDude
    When I think about the activity "bobbing for apples" I think about the "public drinking cup." Blech!

    Good article!
    I remember having to skip bobbing for apples at a halloween party when I was a kid. I was recovering from strep throat and had been on antibiotics long enough to be well enough and not contagious, but we were being extra cautious. I so wanted to be able to bob for those apples though, lol. Today, yeah I wouldn't do it (but I also used to lick my fingers after eating Doritos and nursing has stopped me from doing that, haha).
  8. by   KatieMI
    There are a few ones I would like to print out and distribute among patients and nurses (as well as doctors). With reinforced mandatory reading aloud Q12h daily till understanding of pathophysiologic connection between BMI >50 and repeated cellulitis/UTI/CAP/HAP/sepsis gets firmly established. Even if patient is not diabetic (yet).
  9. by   NurseCard
    Quote from ruby_jane
    Delightful! Actually, fresh air and sunshine were about all we had to treat tuberculosis until the advent of streptomycin and isoniazid.
    Here in KY, we have an old abandoned TB hospital, Waverly Hills. If you
    happen to be a fan of shows like "Ghost Hunters", than you may have heard
    of it, as it is said to be one of the most haunted buildings in the world.

    Anyway, if you ever take a tour of the building, you will likely be treated
    to a nice history lesson as well. One thing you will learn is that the patients
    were often taken to a large terrace off of the second floor of the building,
    just to bask in the fresh sunlight and air! It was indeed one of the main
    treatments that was used!

    That, and good food. The patients were fed very very well. Fresh sunlight,
    air, good food, and low stress.
  10. by   KatieMI
    Quote from NurseCard
    Here in KY, we have an old abandoned TB hospital, Waverly Hills. If you
    happen to be a fan of shows like "Ghost Hunters", than you may have heard
    of it, as it is said to be one of the most haunted buildings in the world.

    Anyway, if you ever take a tour of the building, you will likely be treated
    to a nice history lesson as well. One thing you will learn is that the patients
    were often taken to a large terrace off of the second floor of the building,
    just to bask in the fresh sunlight and air! It was indeed one of the main
    treatments that was used!

    That, and good food. The patients were fed very very well. Fresh sunlight,
    air, good food, and low stress.
    There are, actually, "resorts" targeting asthma/COPD patients as well as chronic pain patients to this days. I go every year in Ouray, CO specifically for salt caves combined with hot pool. That plus lots of hiking in local mountains work really good for my asthma and FBM.

    Only one problem that remains is cost of this luxury.
  11. by   UrbanHealthRN
    My parents were children when illnesses like mumps, measles, and polio were still common occurrences. My mother remembers the schools in her community using winter break as a time to regularly open all the building windows and essentially "air out" the germs that had been collecting in close quarters. Even though winter can be pretty cold in my area, I like to open my windows from time to time while I'm cleaning. I know disease prevention involves much more than fresh air, but I figure it's a practice that can't hurt, and it certainly feels good!
  12. by   brownbook
    I almost have an obsession with fresh air and sunshine. It drives me crazy when family members keep their curtains closed during the day. No, it's not about privacy. And as we live in a moderate climate, keeping windows closed, I have to have windows open a little even if it's cold.

    I am very healthy, seldom sick, so must be fresh air and sunshine!
  13. by   trytounderstand
    As a child I remember all moveable furniture, rugs etc were moved into the sunshine for a day during early spring to kill the winter germs. Even in the winter we were told to stand on the porch and drink up the sun and breath fresh air. Even if you had a cold or bronchitis you were still encouraged to go to the door a couple of times a day to breathe fresh air. Or if you complained of headache or backache the first thing that was said go outside get some fresh air first. For some things the old ways are better but I have seen so many improvements in health care but sometimes we all need to be reminded of how things worked in the past. Sometimes just a breath of fresh air and sunshine makes everything just a little better.
  14. by   aquakenn
    Yes! Fresh air! A long time ago I worked in a drug rehab that had central air. About 30 of the 37 patients had the flu. When the director didn't have an answer, I remember my grandmother and a nurse, told me that buildings should be aired out to prevent re-circulation of viruses. I suggested that anything that could be open, like doors and some windows remain open for a few hours. Almost an instant cure!!!!

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