In a medical reference book from the 1940s, The New People's Physician (1941), I came across these pictures of kids in classrooms and playing sports dressed only in their tighty-whities. They weren't students at a clothing-optional school. They were actually being treated for tuberculosis. In the days before antibiotics, sunlight therapy (or heliotherapy) was a popular cure for that disease.
"At Leysin, in the Alpes Vaudoises, Dr. A. Rollier instituted the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis and other tuberculous diseases by means of direct sunlight. The patients spend as much time as possible in the open air, exposed to the rays of the sun."
"Early cases of tuberculosis in young and vigorous people benefit considerably from treatment at high altitudes. Exercise and sport of a not too strenuous nature is advocated."
"At Perrysburg, N.Y., tubercular children study in an open-air schoolroom, stripped to the waist."
"Minimum clothing and maximum exposure to the sun contribute to improving the health of these tuberculous children at Perrysburg, New York. Outdoor classes and fresh air improve general health as well."
"Outdoor air and sunlight, even in the New England winter, are part of the treatment for child tuberculosis patients of the Meriden State Tuberculosis Sanitarium, Meriden, Conn."
An LA Times article (May 28, 2007) gives some background on the popularity of sunlight therapy for TB:
sunlight therapy, or heliotherapy as it was sometimes called (helios is the Greek word for sun), didn't become popular until a Swiss doctor, Auguste Rollier, began championing it in the early 1900s...
Rollier devised a detailed protocol for how, exactly, to sunbathe for health. He was convinced that early-morning sun was best and that sun exposure was most beneficial when the air was cool. When patients, most of whom had tuberculosis, arrived at his solaria, they first had to adjust to the altitude (his clinics were in the mountains) and then to the cool air. Once acclimated, Rollier slowly exposed them to the sun.
The patients were rolled onto sun-drenched, open-air balconies, wearing loincloths and covered from head to toe with white sheets. On the first day of treatment, just their feet peeked out from under the sheets, and only for five minutes. On day two, the sheets were pulled a little higher, and the patients were left in the sun a few minutes more. By day five, only the patients' heads were covered, their bodies left to soak up sun for more than an hour. After a few weeks, the patients were very tan -- and hopefully very healthy. (The therapy worked for many, but not all.)
And according to a fairly recent article in the Journal of Cell Biology, "Curing TB with Sunlight" (Mar 27, 2006), sunlight actually is a fairly effective treatment for tuberculosis:
Ultraviolet (UV) light makes vitamin D, and vitamin D turns on innate immunity to tuberculosis (TB), say Steffen Stenger (Universität Erlangen, Germany), Philip Liu, Robert Modlin (University of California, Los Angeles, CA), and colleagues...
The finding may explain why Hermann Brehmer's 19th century trip to the Himalayas cured him of his TB, and why the fresh air at his sanatoria helped cure others. “Our forefathers knew a lot more about this than we give them credit for,” says Modlin. Eventually, however, sanitoria coddled their patients behind glass, which would have blocked the beneficial UV light.
Coffee consumption protects the liver from alcoholic cirrhosis. The more coffee the better the effect according to a 22 year study involving 125,000 subjects. Tea does not have the same effect, ruling out caffeine as the cause. So, hit the coffee if you drink much but not for any other form of the disease as alcoholic cirrhosis is the only form it benefits.
Body Integrity Identity Disorder or BIID is when a person believes part of their body is foreign and should be removed. These people will sometimes harm themselves to reach their ideal. Some have laid on railroad tracks to get the offending limb either severed or mangled so badly it must be surgically removed. With that explanation in place let me introduce you to Jewel Shurping. Jewel claims to have been fascinated by blindness from childhood. As an adult she would go out in dark glasses with a white cane and feign blindness and taught herself braille. But she still desired to be blind for real as she felt she was meant to be from birth. So much so that she found a psychologist who was understanding of her disorder and the compelling need Ms. Shurping felt to become blind. The psychologist decided to help by administering drain cleaner into Jewel's eyes to fulfill her wish. Jewel claims to be very happy now with the exception of being disowned by her family when they became aware that her blindness was due to a deliberate act. As far as the helpful psychologist, there was no mention of that person's fate, perhaps they just walked away.
Marijuana has long been known to be an effective glaucoma treatment. It also helps cancer and AIDS patients by increasing appetite and decreasing nausea. Now a recent study indicates pot may be useful in treating some brain tumors. Unfortunately, some people wouldn't be in favor of legalization even if it cured cancer, and now it just might.
Picture one is a child with measles. Picture two is a child with smallpox. The only study to vilify vaccines has been completely debunked and yet supposedly loving and intelligent parents are denying their children the protection of vaccinations. These people also put others at risk with this irresponsible choice. The scientific community is at a loss as to how to reverse this dangerous trend. Meanwhile pop culture icons weigh in on a subject they have no expertise about and influence decisions that damage society as a whole and children especially.
Government needs to step in for public safety before these diseases take hold in the general population unnecessarily. Parents are being threatened with having their children taken away for letting them walk to the park unaccompanied yet refusing the protection of vaccinations is being allowed. We are down the rabbit hole on this issue.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.