Dealing with Sick Building Syndrome

OfficeHave you ever left for work or school only to feel ill or groggy once you step into the building? You may be suffering from symptoms that are associated with sick building syndrome.

What is Sick Building Syndrome?

Sick building syndrome is a range of symptoms that are often associated with spending time in a certain building. These symptoms usually abate once the person leaves. While the symptoms are often flu-like, there often seems to be no specific cause.
The symptoms can include but are not limited to:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • General feelings of fatigue
  • Loss of breath
  • Irritated eyes and blocked nose

In some cases, the person may suffer from a single symptom or they may suffer from a combination of symptoms. The symptoms can range from person to person; one person may suffer one set of symptoms while another person may suffer a completely different set of symptoms.

Who is Most Affected by Sick Building Syndrome?

Those who work in buildings that have a mechanical air conditioner and no opening windows seem to be more likely to suffer from sick building syndrome. While workplaces with open floor plans often have employees complaining of these types of symptoms, children who spend all day at school or who spend time at the library are also susceptible. Occasionally, those who work at home also suffer from these symptoms.

Additionally, those who are stuck routinely using display screen equipment, including computers, are also more at risk. This can hit students or office workers particularly hard, especially since there often is not a way to get some time off the computer during the busy times of the year.

What are Some Potential Causes of Sick Building Syndrome?

While there is no known specific cause of sick building syndrome, there are certain things that may be a factor. Poor indoor air quality can be a big component, especially if the building has poor ventilation. In workplaces that are cleaned regularly at night or have stored chemicals, contaminants can also make their way into the circulating air. If the building has no real ventilation, those chemicals can accumulate. Building materials, such as paint and carpeting, also can release volatile organic compounds into the air.

What Can I Do to Combat Sick Building Syndrome?

If you feel these symptoms while in an environment that you can control, such as your own home, you can take action. Have a trusted professional check your home’s ventilation to ensure contaminants are not building up in your indoor space. You can also have your indoor air quality tested to see if that is the problem. To keep your indoor air healthy, consider using natural cleaning products that are low odor. Allowing some UV light inside during the day can also give you a bit of a boost. Finally, adding a few live plants will keep your space lighter and help you clean up your air.

If you feel the symptoms while at work or school, your options may be a bit more limited. Discuss the problem with the school or the employer to see what your options are. In the meantime, ensure you do your part by not blocking air vents, taking care of any office plants and removing your garbage promptly.

Staying Healthy

While sick building syndrome is usually temporary, it can reduce your productivity and make it difficult in general to get through your day. By understanding the symptoms that you’re suffering, you may be able to mitigate the potential causes or come up with a solution that will help you feel better.


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