University of Virginia Historical Collections at the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library

Dry Air: Arid Climates to Cure Tuberculosis



Some physicians believed that dry air would help tuberculosis patients because it would dry the moisture from their lungs. TB patients flocked to arid climates more than any other region. Tuberculosis sanatoriums cropped up all over Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Western Texas, California, and other dry environmental areas. An article from the (Colorado Springs) Gazette cites TB treatment as the first industry of the region. Before the 1850s Colorado gold rush reached its peak, TB patients were coming in droves in hope of a climatic cure.

The Glockner Tuberculosis Sanatorium was one of the first TB institutions in Colorado Springs, opening in 1889. The patients at Glockner and many other sanatoriums in the area followed a strict treatment plan that included daily exercise, as much fresh air as possible, and a diet of milk and raw eggs.

In 1912, Texas opened its first “tuberculosis colony” — the 57-bed Anti-Tuberculosis Colony No. 1 near San Angelo. A nursing school was established in 1915 to train needed staff and and graduated 500 nurses, most recovering tuberculosis patients themselves, in the ensuing 45 years, While it was never incorporated as a town, Sanatorium, Texas, was a relatively self-sufficient entity for decades. Later named the Texas State Tuberculosis Sanatorium, it would only keep patients for six months at a time because of overwhelming demand. The sanatorium facilities continued to expand over the years to treat more TB patients and later included a children’s Preventorium. By the 1930s, Sanatorium, Texas, had been home to more than 13,000 TB patients.

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