Disease and its Causes

When severe sickness enters a family, there is great need of each member giving strict attention to personal cleanliness, and diet, to preserve themselves in a healthful condition, and by thus doing, fortify themselves against disease. It is also of the greatest importance that the sick-room, from the first, be properly ventilated. This will be beneficial to the afflicted, and highly necessary to keep those well who are compelled to remain a length of time in the sick-room.

It is of great value to the sick to have an even temperature in the room. This cannot always be correctly determined, if left to the judgment of attendants, for they may not be the best judges of a right temperature. And some persons require more heat than others, and would be only comfortable in a room which to another would be uncomfortably warm. And if each of these are at liberty to arrange the fires, to suit their ideas of proper heat, the atmosphere in the sick-room will be anything but regular. Sometimes it will be distressingly warm for the patient; at another time too cold, which will have a most injurious effect upon the sick. The friends of the sick, or attendants, who through anxiety, and watching, are deprived of sleep, and who are suddenly awakened in the night from sleep to attend in the sick-room, are liable to chilliness. Such are not correct thermometers of the healthful temperature of a sick-room. These things may appear of small account, but they have very much to do with the recovery of the sick. In many instances life has been periled by extreme changes of the temperature of the sick-room.

In pleasant weather the sick in no case should be deprived of a full supply of fresh air. Their rooms may not always be so constructed as to allow the windows or doors open in their rooms, without the draught coming directly upon them, and exposing them to take cold. In such cases windows and doors should be opened in an adjoining room, and thus let the fresh air enter the room occupied by the sick. Fresh air will prove more beneficial to the sick than medicine, and is far more essential to them than their food. They will do better, and recover sooner, deprived of food, than of fresh air.

Many invalids have been confined weeks and months in close rooms, shutting out the light, and pure, invigorating air of heaven, as though air was a deadly enemy, when it was just the medicine the sick needed to make them well. The whole system was debilitated and diseased for want of air, and nature was sinking under her load of accumulating impurities, in addition to the fashionable poisons administered by physicians, until she was overpowered, and broke down in her efforts, and the sick died. They might have lived. Heaven willed not their death. They died victims to their own ignorance, and that of their friends, and the ignorance and deception of physicians, who gave them fashionable poisons, and would not allow them pure water to drink, and fresh air to breathe, to invigorate the vital organs, purify the blood, and help nature in her task in overcoming the bad conditions of the system. These valuable remedies which Heaven has provided, without money and without price, were cast aside, and considered not only as worthless, but even as dangerous enemies, while poisons, prescribed by physicians, were in blind confidence taken.

Thousands have died for want of pure water, and pure air, who might have lived. And thousands of living invalids, who are a burden to themselves and others, think that their lives depend upon taking medicines from the doctors. They are continually guarding themselves against the air, and avoiding the use of water. These blessings they need in order to become well. If they would become enlightened, and let medicine alone, and accustom themselves to outdoor exercise, and to air in their houses, summer and winter, and use soft water for drinking and bathing purposes, they would be comparatively well and happy, instead of dragging out a miserable existence.

It is the duty of attendants and nurses in the sick-room to have a special care of their own health, especially in critical cases of fever and consumption. One person should not be kept closely confined to the sick-room. It is safer to have two or three to depend upon, who are careful and understanding nurses, and these changing and sharing the care and confinement of the sick-room. Each should have exercise in the open air, as often as possible. This is important to sick-bed attendants, especially if the friends of the sick are among that class who continue to regard air, if admitted into the sick-room, as an enemy, and will not allow the windows raised, or the doors opened. The sick, and the attendants, are in this case compelled to breathe the poisonous atmosphere from day to day, because of the inexcusable ignorance of the friends of the sick.

In very many cases the attendants are ignorant of the wants of the system, and the relation which the breathing of fresh air sustains to health, and the life-destroying influence of inhaling the diseased air of a sick-room. In this case the life of the sick is endangered, and the attendants themselves are liable to take on diseases, and lose health, and perhaps life.

If fevers enter a family, often more than one have the same fever. This need not be, if the habits of the family are correct. If their diet is as it should be, and they observe habits of cleanliness, and realize the necessity of ventilation, the fever need not extend to another member of the family. The reason of fevers prevailing in families, and exposing the attendants, is because the sick-room is not kept free from poisonous infection, by cleanliness and proper ventilation.

If attendants are awake to the subject of health, and realize the necessity of ventilation for their own benefit, as well as that of the patient, and the relatives, as well as the sick, oppose the admission of air and light into the sick-room, the attendants should have no scruples of conscience in leaving the sick-room. They should feel themselves released from their obligations to the sick. It is not the duty of one or more to risk the liability of incurring disease, and endangering their lives by breathing a poisonous atmosphere. If the sick will fall a victim to their own erroneous ideas, and will shut out of the room the most essential of Heaven's blessings, let them do so, but not at the peril of those who ought to live.

The mother, from a sense of duty, has left her family to administer in the sick room, where pure air was not allowed to enter, and has become sick by inhaling the diseased atmosphere, which affected her whole system. After a period of much suffering, she has died leaving her children motherless. The sick, who shared the sympathy and unselfish care of this mother, recovered, but neither the sick, nor the friends of the sick, understood that precious life was sacrificed because of their ignorance of the relation which pure air sustains to health. Neither did they feel responsibility in regard to the stricken flock, left without the tender mother's care.

Mothers sometimes permit their daughters to take care of the sick in illy ventilated rooms, and, as a result, have had to nurse them through a period of sickness. And because of the mother's anxiety and care for her child, she has been made sick, and frequently one or both have died, or been left with broken constitutions, or made suffering invalids for life. There is a lamentable catalogue of evils which have their origin in the sick room, from which the pure air of heaven is excluded. All who breathe this poisonous atmosphere violate the laws of their being, and must suffer the penalty.

The sick, as a general thing, are taxed with too many visitors and callers, who chat with them, and weary them by introducing different topics of conversation, when they need quiet, and undisturbed rest. Many have made themselves sick by overtaxing their strength. Their exhausted energies compel them to cease labor, and they are brought to a bed of suffering. Rest, freedom from care, light, pure air, pure water, and spare diet, are all that they need to make them well. It is mistaken kindness that leads so many, out of courtesy, to visit the sick. Often have they spent a sleepless, suffering night, after receiving visitors. They have been more or less excited, and the reaction has been too great for their already debilitated energies, and, as the result of these fashionable calls, they have been brought into very dangerous conditions, and lives have been sacrificed for the want of thoughtful prudence.

It is sometimes gratifying to the sick to be visited, and to know that friends have not forgotten them in their affliction. But, although these visits may have been gratifying, in very many instances these fashionable calls have turned the scale when the invalid was recovering, and the balance has borne down to death. Those who cannot make themselves useful should be cautious in regard to visiting the sick. If they can do no good, they may do harm. But the sick should not be neglected. They should have the best of care, and the sympathy of friends and relatives.

Much harm has resulted to the sick from the universal custom of having watchers, nights. In critical cases this may be necessary; but it is often the case that more harm is done the sick by this practice than good. It has been the custom to shut out the air from the sick room. The atmosphere of such rooms, to say the least, is very impure, which greatly aggravates the condition of the sick. In addition to this, to have one or two watchers to use up the little vital air which may find its way to the sick room through the crevices of doors and windows, is taking from them this vitality, and leaving them more debilitated than they would have been had they been left to themselves. The evil does not end here. Even one watcher will make more or less stir, which disturbs the sick. But where there are two watchers, they often converse together, sometimes aloud, but more frequently in whispered tones, which is far more trying and exciting to the nerves of the sick than talking aloud.

Many suffering wakeful nights are endured by the sick because of watchers. If they were left alone without a light, knowing that all were at rest, they could much better compose themselves to sleep, and in the morning they would awake refreshed. Every breath of vital air in the sick room is of the greatest value, although many of the sick are very ignorant on this point. They feel very much depressed, and do not know what the matter is. A draught of pure air through their room would have a happy invigorating influence upon them.

But if they are afraid of air, and shut themselves away from this blessing, the little that is allowed to reach them should not be consumed by watchers, or lamp-light. Attendants upon the sick should if possible leave them to quiet and rest through the night, while they occupy a room adjoining.

All unnecessary noise and excitement should be avoided in the sick room, and the whole house should be kept as quiet as possible. Ignorance, forgetfulness, and recklessness, have caused the death of many who might have lived, had they received proper care from judicious, thoughtful attendants. The doors should be opened and shut with great care, and the attendants should be unhurried, calm, and self-possessed.

The sick room, if possible, should have a draught of air through it, day and night. The draught should not come directly upon the invalid. While burning fevers are raging, there is but little danger of taking cold. But especial care is needful when the crisis comes, and fever is passing away. Then constant watching may be necessary to keep vitality in the system. The sick must have pure, invigorating air. If no other way can be devised, the sick, if possible, should be removed to another room, and another bed, while the sick room, the bed and bedding are being purified by ventilation. If those who are well need the blessings of light and air, and need to observe habits of cleanliness in order to remain well, the sick are in still greater need of them in proportion to their debilitated condition.

A great amount of suffering might be saved if all would labor to prevent disease, by strictly obeying the laws of health. Strict habits of cleanliness should be observed. Many, while well, will not take the trouble to keep in a healthy condition. They neglect personal cleanliness, and are not careful to keep their clothing pure. Impurities are constantly and imperceptibly passing from the body, through the pores, and if the surface of the skin is not kept in a healthy condition, the system is burdened with impure matter. If the clothing worn is not often washed, and frequently aired, it becomes filthy with impurities which are thrown off from the body by sensible and insensible perspiration. And if the garments worn are not frequently cleansed from these impurities, the pores of the skin absorb again the waste matter thrown off. The impurities of the body, if not allowed to escape, are taken back into the blood, and forced upon the internal organs. Nature, to relieve herself of poisonous impurities, makes an effort to free the system, which effort produces fevers, and what is termed disease. But even then, if those who are afflicted would assist nature in her efforts, by the use of pure, soft water, much suffering would be prevented. But many, instead of doing this, and seeking to remove the poisonous matter from the system, take a more deadly poison into the system, to remove a poison already there.

If every family realized the beneficial results of thorough cleanliness, they would make special efforts to remove every impurity from their persons, and from their houses, and would extend their efforts to their premises. Many suffer decayed vegetable matter to remain about their premises. They are not awake to the influence of these things. There is constantly arising from these decaying substances an effluvia that is poisoning the air. By inhaling the impure air, the blood is poisoned, the lungs become affected, and the whole system is diseased. Disease of almost every description will be cause by inhaling the atmosphere affected by these decaying substances.

Families have been afflicted with fevers, some have died, and the remaining portion of the family circle have almost murmured against their Maker because of their distressing bereavements, when the sole cause of all their sickness and death has been the result of their own carelessness. The impurities about their own premises have brought upon them contagious diseases, and the sad afflictions which they charge upon God. Every family that prizes health should cleanse their houses and their premises of all decaying substances.

God commanded that the children of Israel should in no case allow impurities of their persons, or of their clothing. Those who had any personal uncleanness were shut out of the camp until evening, and then were required to cleanse themselves and their clothing before they could enter the camp. Also they were commanded of God to have no impurities upon their premises within a great distance of the encampment, lest the Lord should pass by and see their uncleanness.

In regard to cleanliness, God requires no less of his people now, than he did of ancient Israel. A neglect of cleanliness will induce disease. Sickness and premature death, do not come without a cause. Stubborn fevers and violent diseases have prevailed in neighborhoods, and towns, that had formerly been considered healthy, and some have died, while others have been left with broken constitutions to be crippled with disease for life. In many instances their own yards contained the agent of destruction, which sent forth deadly poison into the atmosphere, to be inhaled by the family, and the neighborhood. The slackness and recklessness sometimes witnessed, is beastly, and the ignorance of the results of such things upon health is astonishing. Such places should be purified, especially in summer, by lime, or ashes, or by a daily burial with earth.

Some houses are furnished expensively, more to gratify pride, and to receive visitors, than for the comfort, convenience and health of the family. The best rooms are kept dark. The light and air are shut out, lest the light of heaven may injure the rich furniture, fade the carpets, or tarnish the picture frames. When visitors are permitted to be seated in these precious rooms, they are in danger of taking cold, because of the cellar-like atmosphere pervading them. Parlor chambers and bedrooms are kept closed in the same manner and for the same reasons. And whoever occupies these beds which have not been freely exposed to the light and air, do so at the expense of health, and often even of life itself.

Rooms that are not exposed to light and air become damp. Beds and bedding gather dampness, and the atmosphere in these rooms is poisonous, because it has not been purified by light and air. Various diseases have been brought on by sleeping in these fashionable health-destroying apartments. Every family that prizes health above the empty applause of fashionable visitors, will have a circulation of air, and an abundance of light through every apartment of their houses for several hours each day. But many will follow fashion so closely, they become slaves to it, and would suffer sickness, and even death, rather than be out of fashion. They will reap that which they have sown. They will live fashionably, and suffer with diseases as the result, be doctored with fashionable poisons, and die fashionable deaths.

Sleeping rooms especially should be well ventilated, and the atmosphere made healthy by light and air. Blinds should be left open several hours each day, the curtains put aside, and the room thoroughly aired. Nothing should remain, even for a short time, which would destroy the purity of the atmosphere.

Many families suffer with sore throat, and lung diseases, and liver complaints, brought upon them by their own course of action. Their sleeping rooms are small, unfit to sleep in for one night, but they occupy the small apartments for weeks, and months, and years. They keep their windows and doors closed, fearing they would take cold if there was a crevice open to let in the air. They breathe the same air over and over, until it becomes impregnated with the poisonous impurities, and waste matter, thrown off from their bodies, through the lungs, and the pores of the skin. Such can test the matter, and be convinced of the unhealthy air in their close rooms, by entering them after they have remained a while in the open air. Then they can have some idea of the impurities they have conveyed to the blood, through the inhalations of the lungs. Those who thus abuse their health, must suffer with disease. All should regard light and air as among Heaven's most precious blessings. They should not shut out these blessings as though they were enemies.

Sleeping apartments should be large and so arranged as to have a circulation of air through them, day and night. Those who have excluded the air from their sleeping rooms, should commence to change their course immediately. They should let in air by degrees, and increase its circulation until they can bear it winter and summer, with no danger of taking cold. The lungs, in order to be healthy, must have pure air.

Those who have not had a free circulation of air in their rooms through the night, generally awake feeling exhausted, feverish, and know not the cause. It was air, vital air, that the whole system required, but which it could not obtain. Upon rising in the morning, most persons would be benefited by taking a sponge-bath, or, if more agreeable, a hand-bath, with merely a wash-bowl of water. This will remove impurities from the skin. (When this was written people didn't have showers or bath tubs in their homes. I believe that if Ellen White were to wright this today she would recommend showering at least twice a day, morning and evening.) Then the clothing should be removed piece by piece from the bed, and exposed to the air. The windows should be opened, and the blinds fastened back, and the air left to circulate freely for several hours, if not all day, through the sleeping apartments. In this manner the bed and clothing will become thoroughly aired, and the impurities will be removed from the room.

Shade trees and shrubbery too close and dense around a house are unhealthy; for they prevent a free circulation of air, and prevent the rays of the sun from shining sufficiently through. In consequence of this, a dampness gathers in the house. Especially in wet seasons the sleeping rooms become damp, and those who sleep in the beds are troubled with rheumatism, neuralgia, and lung complaints, which generally end in consumption. Numerous shade trees cast off many leaves, which, if not immediately removed, decay, and poison the atmosphere. A yard beautified with scattering trees, and some shrubbery, at a proper distance from the house, has a happy, cheerful influence upon the family, and, if well taken care of, will prove no injury to health. Dwellings, if possible, should be built upon high and dry ground. If a house be built where water settles around it, remaining for a time, and then drying away, a poisonous miasma arises, and fever and ague, sore throat, lung diseases, and fevers will be the result.

Many have expected that God would keep them from sickness merely because they have asked him to do so. But God did not regard their prayers, because their faith was not made perfect by works. God will not work a miracle to keep those from sickness who have no care for themselves, but are continually violating the laws of health, and make no efforts to prevent disease. When we do all we can on our part to have health, then may we expect that the blessed results will follow, and we can ask God in faith to bless our efforts for the preservation of health. He will then answer our prayer, if his name can be glorified thereby. But let all understand that they have a work to do. God will not work in a miraculous manner to preserve the health of persons who are taking a sure course to make themselves sick, by their careless inattention to the laws of health.-- How to Live, No. 4, pp. 54-64.
- - - - - {Selected Messages II Page 455- 464}

Please note that the contents of this page are for information purposes only.
It is not to be in any way, shape or form construed as providing, or attempting to provide medical advice.

Back to "Health Corner"

Back Home