During the Victorian era, children, if bathed at all, usually found Saturday evening the day chosen by their parents. Daily bathing was not considered necessary, and might even be harmful. A good example of mid-eighteenth century medical advice written for children about this matter is given below:
A late writer in the Medical and Surgical Journat utters the opinion that once a week is often enough to bathe the whole body for the purpose of luxury or cleanliness. Flannel worn next to the skin at all seasons is proper, and is infinitely more healthful than all the daily baths now so fashionable. The oil which is secreted by the sebaceous glands of the skin, serves the purpose of lubricating its surface. Now if this secretion is constantly removed as fast as exuded, its destined object is thereby defeated. The excretory ducts of the perspiratory glands, and the glands themselves, require this unctuous matter of the skin, to keep them in health and action. If very frequent bathing of the whole body is practiced, it must be obvious that this matter cannot be long present to perform its office. As to the assimilation of functions of the skin and lungs, it will be apparent, that when the skin acts imperfectly, or ceases to act at all, the lungs have an extra amount of duty to perform; and it is generally in just such cases that engorgement takes place, constituting infiammation or pneumonia.
While a great number of health statisticians attribute the increase of modem longevity to this and that cause, we believe that the benefits of cheap flannel, linen and cotton clothes are overlooked. We can well understand how necessary it is for savages to bathe once a day, but not those who enjoy the luxury of clean linen.
- Copyright © 1969 by the American Academy of Pediatrics