London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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Barking 1948

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Barking]

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People are always asking me how long does vaccination last and, quite frankly,
this is not an easy question to answer, because we get Smallpox of very different
strains. If you get the full-blooded worst-of-all Asiatic types it is necessary to have
been vaccinated pretty recently if it is to be any good, but for the milder strains
vaccination can prevent an attack anything from three to seven years afterwards.
I know doctors who vaccinate themselves whenever there is an outbreak.
Indeed, I was myself vaccinated during a recent outbreak. For those who are
vaccinated very frequently it is a very mild affair and all I say is that what is good
enough for me is good enough for other people.
Question:—Why are skin troubles so common in children ?
Answer:—Quite frankly I cannot help people asking this question and I know
they ask it in all good faith, but the fact is that skin trouble is not common in
children; that is, certainly not to an old man like myself who can remember the
conditions which prevailed nearly sixty years ago.
I am tempted to believe that ringworm has disappeared, largely because so
many boys do not wear caps. Indeed I
hope that it will never again be "de rigueur"
for school boys to wear school hats.
I can remember a time when a day in
the country meant all children dressing up
and not undressing as they do to-day.
I am quite sure that shedding our clothes
has meant a great improvement to the
health and well-being of the skin of
children and, no less, the skin of adults.
In the same way girls, at even an early age,
are very conscious of what I believe is
properly termed the "latest hair-do," and
I do believe that this fashion of the hair
has meant a great improvement in the
physical condition of the scalp. So also
the fact that girls are going about with bare legs, and sometimes bare feet, has done
a lot more than doctors' medicines, because there can be no doubt that in olden
days the feet were very much neglected, and whilst many mothers saw that their
children went to school with clean necks, the same could not be said for their poor
little feet.
Number of cases treated
1946 1947 1948
Scalp 7 9 3
Body 19 13 9
Scabies 231 110 32
Impetigo 257 138 93
Others 1,011 752 776
Totals 1,525 1,022 913
To be kept healthy the skin requires that it should be in the most natural
conditions possible and in England we do not get sufficient fine weather to do a lot
towards this end. I see no reason why on suitable occasions children should not
attend school with very little clothing.
Question:—We keep both a dog and a cat at home, and I am rather
worried as to whether any of the vermin commonly found on these
animals could get on to my children.
Answer:—Practically speaking, "No." Fleas from dogs and cats fortunately
do not trouble human beings, though this is no excuse for not keeping these pets

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