Sick Building Syndrome : How to check if you have ?


A disorder known as sick building syndrome (SBS) is considered to be brought on by spending time in a building or other confined place. The poor quality of the air within is to blame. Yet it is unclear what caused it exactly. Recent research estimates that roughly 30% of newly constructed and renovated buildings have poor indoor air quality.

An SBS diagnosis can occasionally be challenging due to the variety of symptoms. They have the ability to mimic several illnesses, including the common cold. The hallmark of SBS is that your symptoms become better after you leave the problematic building, but they return whenever you go back there. 

You could think about looking into sick building syndrome as the root of a certain building.


Since it is impossible to pinpoint the precise origin of your problems, the phrase "sick building syndrome" is utilised. There are several more potential explanations, though, that you may discuss with your doctor.

The perpetrators of SBS may be:

  • Structures with inadequate ventilation, such as public places, offices, and schools
  • High cigarette dust levels smoky environments with inadequate lighting and antiquated computer display that strain the eyes
  • The presence of fungus or mould
  • Formaldehyde (primarily found in wood furniture and flooring)
  • Airborne asbestos compounds caused by cleaning products
  • Pesticides, printer and fax machine emissions of carbon monoxide, and ozone
  • Poor workplace morale, high levels of stress at work or school, heat, or low humidity
  • Noise-filled workplaces
  • Animal or bug droppings

Considering the range of elements that may trigger this, it is challenging to identify a specific reason. To get rid of potential danger factors, you might be able to collaborate with your employer. You can address the issue's root cause in this manner.

How to check if you have Sick Building Syndrome?

Sick building syndrome symptoms worsen the longer you stay in a building and improve once you leave.

Other occupants in the building could also be experiencing problems.

Potential signs include:

  • Rashes
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Clogged or runny nose dry
  • Itchy skin
  • Dry, painful eyes or throat
  • Fatigue and difficulties focusing

Information: These symptoms are widespread and have a wide range of potential causes. If you experience them frequently or wherever you go, they are probably not symptoms of sick-building syndrome.

Risk Factors

The following are regarded by those who think sick building syndrome actually exists as some of the primary risk factors, but an individual may only have a small number of these risk variables:

  • Working in a structure that triggers some or many of the general symptoms described below (such as an office)
  • Increased susceptibility to environmental antigens
  • Have one or more medical issues that have been diagnosed (for example, asthma)
  • Increased odour sensitivity
  • Symptoms are more likely to appear in females.
  • Depression 
  • Anxiety

However, proponents of the opposing perspective contend that these are merely general risk factors for a variety of already established medical conditions and offer little help to clinicians who treat patients with vague symptoms that some claim is indicative of this disease.


Your skin, respiratory, and neurological systems may be impacted by SBS symptoms. You can incorrectly think you have the flu or a cold.

Among the potential signs are:

  • Throat discomfort
  • Breathing problems
  • Tightness in the chest
  • A runny nose
  • Allergy-related symptoms including sneezing, and nose burning
  • Rashes on dry, itchy skin
  • Headaches
  • Unsteadiness 
  • Trouble focusing
  • Forgetfulness
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Fever, chills, and bodily pains

You can experience symptoms that are worse if you already have allergies or a respiratory infection. For instance, SBS may increase the likelihood of asthma episodes in people who already have the condition.

It is also crucial to remember that everyone is impacted by SBS in a different way. While some of the symptoms listed above may occur in everyone who spends time in a certain area, they can also vary. Other individuals might not have any symptoms at all. Others could exhibit symptoms after leaving the afflicted building; this could be the result of repeated or prolonged exposure.

As you leave the potentially dangerous building, sick building syndrome symptoms usually start to improve. After risks inside the structure are removed or after you have reduced your exposure, persistent symptoms go better. In certain instances, chronic exposure to poor indoor air quality can cause lung conditions including asthma.


Sadly, you might not be able to detect indoor air quality problems that could make you feel ill. You might be able to take precautions to lessen your risk of SBS.

Your own risk factors for sick building syndrome can be reduced by:

  • Take routine pauses outside the building, such as having lunch outside and, if feasible, opening the windows to obtain some fresh air (you may want to avoid this during high levels of outdoor pollen, though)
  • Taking a break from your computer, standing at your desk, or moving about your work while being cautious around any indoor pollutants like bleach and pesticides may help your eyes.


SBS is generally treated by lowering symptoms while minimising exposure to the factors that contribute to them.

Allergy medication helps to relieve itchy skin, eyes, and nose. There are several over-the-counter remedies, including Benadryl and Zyrtec. Medication for asthma may be required if you have wheezing or other breathing issues. They could consist of chronic drugs like leukotriene modifiers or an inhaler for sudden symptoms.

Employers can also take some measures to treat SBS. You or your employer might think about trying the following:

  • Utilize cleaning supplies without perfumes and with minimal fumes.
  • Regularly Hoover to get rid of dust.
  • Replace air filters every several months (or more, if necessary).
  • Determine the ideal humidity range of 40 to 70 per cent.
  • Get a check for potential indoor fungi or mould.
  • Upgrade display systems, including computer displays.
  • When required, adjust the lighting.
  • Get LED or blue lights if you want to use less electricity.

Complications of Sick Building Syndrome

Many employees are concerned about the long-term effects of working in a sick building. There are no published studies that unambiguously show a connection between having worked in an unhealthy facility and chronic health issues. As soon as you leave the building, the sick building syndrome symptoms and indications should go away.


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Page last reviewed: Apr 25, 2023

Next review due: Apr 25, 2025

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