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What is sick building syndrome & how to treat it

What is sick building syndrome & how to treat it 7 Jun

Are you getting ill from being at home or in the office? You may have sick building syndrome. Some say it is all in the mind, but we will leave that for you to decide. Discover what sick building syndrome is, whether you are showing symptoms, and how to treat it.

What is sick building syndrome?

Sick building syndrome (SBS) is a controversial medical state in which people exhibit symptoms of illness from a specific home or building. Reports indicate that open-plan offices, and workplaces in general, tend to be more prone to inflicting SBS. The alleged illness is more likely to occur with frequent or long-term exposure. However, the existence of this sickness itself has been collectively questioned.


Symptoms of sick building syndrome

The symptoms of SBS are similar to many illnesses but tend to impact your skin, respiratory and neurological systems. For instance, sick building syndrome can easily be misdiagnosed for a cold or flu. If you suffer from respiratory conditions or allergies, your sick building syndrome symptoms may be more austere.


Reported symptoms of sick building syndrome include:

  • Headaches

  • Sore and dry eyes

  • Fatigue

  • Hay fever symptoms (i.e. sneezing)

  • Chills

  • Itchy and dry skin rashes

  • Aches

  • Throat irritation

  • Runny or burning feelings in the nose

  • Breathing troubles

  • Nausea

  • Fever

  • Dizziness

  • Forgetfulness

  • Lack of concentration (impacts productivity at work)


Photo Credit: Iryna Stegniy / Shutterstock
Sick building syndrome testing and causes

There are no hard-proven tests for sick building syndrome. Instead, it seems SBS is diagnosed by identifying symptoms in employees or a household and checking a building for the SBS causes. If you are experiencing SBS symptoms, investigate places that you frequently visit.


Does sick building syndrome really exist?

As mentioned, not everyone believes sick building syndrome is real. There is still room for further studies to take place. However, it is hypothesised that the symptoms could be related, in part, to low air quality and inadequate lighting.


Sick building syndrome case study:

Aired on the House Planning Help Podcast, Elinor Olisa describes her family’s ill health. Her children experienced severe, and life-threatening, allergies. She claims, “they could die if they are exposed to something.” Yet, some of their symptoms seemed parallel to sick building syndrome. For example, poor air quality, bad lighting and materials within buildings themselves.


Elinor and Born, her husband, decided they would design and build their own Passive House (Passivhaus). This house was intended to enhance air quality and eliminate as many allergic reactions as possible. The results were shocking. Elinor claims that since building their new home and carefully selecting the materials, the children’s health has dramatically improved.


Elinor Olisa:

“We can all make changes in our existing homes. You don’t have to build a house to do this. There are changes you can make in your existing home that can have a significant impact on your overall health.”


Sick building syndrome treatment

Fortunately, sick building syndrome can be treated by eliminating the root causes. There are a surprising number of illnesses caused by household items. Over-the-counter medications may also ease the symptoms until you identify and remove the causes.


Treatments for SBS:

  • Keep the temperature below 23 ℃

  • Open windows frequently

  • Use eco-friendly cleaning products

  • Clean dust regularly

  • Adjust your lighting

  • Remove mould and fungus

  • Regulate humidity levels to 40 to 70 per cent

  • Invest in a thorough cleaning service

  • Replace air filters bi-monthly

  • Regular property maintenance


Hiring a cleaner can alleviate many of the SBS causes and sustain a healthy environment. A good cleaning service can ensure that a building is free of dust, bacteria, fungus and get rid of mould. Equally, they should have specific know-how for the type of property. Rub and Scrub, for example, have expertise cleaning commercial properties and residential.

Making adjustments to a home or office can have a big impact on your health. In the earlier example, Elinor took significant steps due to the seriousness of her children’s allergies and health requirements. However, she still had to maintain the new home to see positive results.


Feature Image: FlorianTM / Shutterstock

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