When this period arrives, or shortly after, bathing is but too frequently left off; the hands and face of the child are kept clean, and with this the nurse is satisfied; the daily ablution of the whole body, however, is still necessary, not only for the preservation of cleanliness, but because it promotes in a high degree the health of the child.
A child of a vigorous constitution and robust health, as he rises from his bed refreshed and active by his night's repose, should be put into the shower-bath, or, if this excites and alarms him too much, must be sponged from head to foot with salt water. If the weather be very cold, the water may be made slightly tepid, but if his constitution will bear it, the water should be cold throughout the year. Then the body should be speedily dried, and hastily but well rubbed with a somewhat coarse towel, and the clothes put on without any unnecessary delay. This should be done every morning of the child's life.
If such a child is at the sea-side, advantage should be taken of this circumstance, and seabathing should be substituted. The best time is two or three hours after breakfast; but he must not be fatigued beforehand, for if so, the cold bath cannot be used without danger. Care must be taken that he does not remain in too long, as the animal heat will be lowered below the proper degree, which would be most injurious. In boys of a feeble constitution, great mischief is often produced in this way. It is a matter also of great consequence in bathing children that they should not be terrified by the immersion, and every precaution should be taken to prevent this. The healthy and robust boy, too, should early be taught to swim, whenever this is practicable, for it is attended with the most beneficial effects; it is a most invigorating exercise, and the cold bath thus becomes doubly serviceable.
If a child is of a delicate and strumous constitution, the cold bath during the summer is one of the best tonics that can be employed; and if living on the coast, sea-bathing will be found of singular benefit. The effects, however, of sea-bathing upon such a constitution must be particularly watched, for unless it is succeeded by a glow, a feeling of increased strength, and a keen appetite, it will do no good, and ought at once to be abandoned for the warm or tepid bath. The opinion that warm baths generally relax and weaken, is erroneous; for in this case, as in all cases when properly employed, they would give tone and vigour to the whole system; in fact, the tepid bath is to this child what the cold bath is to the more robust.
In conclusion: if the bath in any shape cannot from circumstances be obtained, then cold saltwater sponging must be used daily, and all the year round, so long as the proper reaction or glow follows its use; but when this is not the case, and this will generally occur, if the child is delicate and the weather cold, tepid vinegar and water, or tepid salt water, must be substituted.