Last Updated on Sep 09, 2014


Sick Building Syndrome is a condition that presents with a set of symptoms (like fatigue, nausea, headache, irritation in the eyes/nose/throat) which are not related to any identifiable cause. People who are staying or working in a particular room or building tend to experience it.

Sick Building Syndrome is not due to any particular identifiable cause and is often thought to be related to psychosocial factors like stress, lack of support and working or living in a space that is too crowded.

Sick Building Syndrome

Physical factors which play a role in the occurrence of Sick Building Syndrome are:

  • Poor ventilation
  • Continuous air conditioning
  • Lack of humidity
  • Chemical contaminants (both from within the building and outside the building)
  • Biological contaminants like pollen, moulds, bacteria and virus. Stagnant water in humidifiers or air coolers can serve as breeding space for these organisms.

Signs and Symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome

Symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome can be divided into subgroups depending upon the system affected.

Symptoms related to Mucus membranes:

  • Eye, throat irritation
Sick Building Syndrome: Eye, throat irritation
  • Dry mouth
  • Nasal irritation

Symptoms related to Nervous system:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Inability to concentrate/mood changes
  • Fatigue
  • Sensitivity to light and/or smell
  • Problems with memory
Sick Building Syndrome: Nervous system

Symptoms related to Respiratory system:

  • Dry cough
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Tightness in the chest
Sick Building Syndrome: Respiratory system

Symptoms related to Gastrointestinal system:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Bloating

Apart from the above mentioned symptoms patients with this condition might also experience certain generalized symptoms like muscle stiffness with pain, itching of the skin, rash etc.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Sick Building Syndrome

Sick Building Syndrome has no specific tests for diagnosis as the cause for its occurrence is not known. Similarly treatment is also not specific, only symptomatic care is given for relief.

As there is no identifiable cause for the occurrence of sick building syndrome, accurate diagnosis is not possible. But evaluation of symptoms to reveal any physical abnormality is done, as certain underlying conditions might present, which the patient might attribute to the living or working premises.

Treatment involves symptomatic care (Analgesics, Antiemetics, Antacids) for relief from symptoms. Antidepressants, or medications for treating anxiety or sleeping problems also provide relief for patients with sick building syndrome.

Certain measures can be taken to reduce the occurrence of sick building syndrome like:

  • Increasing ventilation for improving the quality of indoor air
  • Reducing the use of cleaning agents, adhesives and strong smelling agents
  • Regular maintenance of air conditioners and heaters
  • Avoiding vehicle smoke, tobacco smoke and fibers from carpets or furnishings
Sick Building Syndrome: Avoid smoke
  • Increasing the number of plants in the premises for fresh air.


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