What Is the Difference Between a Sanatorium & a Sanitarium?

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In the past, people with serious illnesses had few options for a cure. One of the possible treatments was a visit to a sanitarium or a sanatorium. These two terms refer to medical facilities that are very similar. The difference between the two is subtle, and they are often considered interchangeable terms.


  • Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that affects the lungs. In modern times, it is possible to treat someone who has tuberculosis with a regimen of antibiotics, although it can still be difficult to cure. Before antibiotics, a diagnosis or tuberculosis often meant that the afflicted person was going to die. One of the only treatments offered for tuberculosis was "open air" treatment, in which a patient was exposed to fresh air and received daily supervision from a doctor. The primary method of receiving open air treatment was a visit to a sanatorium.


  • Sanitariums have been around for a very long time, and the term "sanitarium" derives from the Latin word "sanitas," meaning "health" and referring to the health gained from visiting such a place. Sanitariums are facilities that are essentially health resorts. People at a sanitarium had comfortable living conditions and plenty of healthy foods to eat. Often, sanitariums were built near mineral springs or similar natural water sources that were thought to have health benefits.


  • Like a sanitarium, a sanatorium is a facility designed to promote health through healthy eating as well as monitored exercise and rest. The word "sanatorium" is derived from the Latin word "sano," which means "to heal." The difference in name is meant to show the sanatorium's emphasis on healing the sick, usually tuberculosis patients. Sanatoriums were typically built in remote areas with a lot of open air, often in elevated areas with a good view or by the seaside. Sunlight and fresh air were considered very important in the treatment of tuberculosis patients.


  • Sanitariums and sanatoriums were very similar, having similar methods of treatment, similar remote and natural locations and similar goals. The terms sound very much alike and can be used interchangeably in modern terminology. However, there is a difference between the two. The main difference is that a patient in a sanatorium was always sick, usually with tuberculosis. The sanatorium was similar to a hospital and was designed to treat a specific disease. A person in a sanitarium might be there for any health-related reason, but might or might not be actually sick with a disease.


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