Rules Against Spitting

The story of Robert Koch and tuberculosis is, in part, a story about how one scientist's discovery under a microscope works its way into a new social truth. In other words, it's one thing to prove to scientists that those bacteria under the scope are the agents of disease. But it it quite another thing to change society, so that ordinary people comprehend the true nature of germs and how they must change their own daily habits and behaviors. That is a much harder challenge, and it's one science is still struggling with.

One wonderful example of how this social shift took place is this list of 19 rules for children, a list that first appeared around the turn of the 20th century in a pamphlet called "The True Story of Tuberculosis."


Rules for Children

1. Do not spit.

2. Do not let others spit.

3. If you have a cough, and must spit, use a paper napkin or a piece of newspaper, and put it in the stove.

4. Get plenty of fresh air; keep your win- dows open at night, no matter what the weather may be.

5. Do not allow anyone to kiss you on the lips.

6. Do not stay near anyone who has a cough.

7. Take a warm bath once or twice a week, and bathe your face, neck, chest and arms with cold water every morning.

8. Always hold a handkerchief over your mouth and nose, when you cough or sneeze.

9. Always breathe through your nose. If it is stopped up, and you have to open your mouth to breathe, go to a doctor or dispensary. You cannot be well unless you breathe through your nose.

10. Do not wrap heavy mufflers or furs around your neck.

11. Use your toothbrush after each meal.

12. Wash your hands with soap and water before each meal.

13. Never eat too much.

14. Drink all the milk you can get, and very little tea or coffee.

15. Do not lie on the bed with a sick person.

16. Avoid children who have any contagious disease.

17. Do not spit on your slate, or put your fingers in your mouth, before you turn the pages of a book.

18. Do not put things in your mouth that other children have had in theirs, such as whistles, spit blowers, chewing gum and pencils. Do not bite from the same apple that some one else has been eating.

19. And last as well as first, DO NOT SPIT.

Thomas GoetzComment