Sick Building Syndrome

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Updated on Nov 16, 2023
5 min read
Sick Building Syndrome

Understanding Sick Building Syndrome

What is Sick Building Syndrome? It is a situation where occupants of a building or other indoor space experience symptoms such as headache; eye, nose, or throat irritation; dry cough; dry and itchy skin; rash; dizziness and nausea; fatigue; or difficulty concentrating. There is no known cause for these symptoms, and they usually disappear once the sufferers leave the building.

Distinguishing Sick Building Syndrome from Building Related Illness

Sick Building Syndrome is not to be confused with Building Related Illness. The symptoms of Building Related Illness can usually be attributed to a specific cause, such as bacteria, virus, or other infectious agents. Symptoms can clinically be defined and can include cough, chest tightness, fever, chills, and muscle aches. In the case of Building Related Illness, the sufferer continues to experience symptoms even after leaving the building and may require an amount of time to recover from the illness.

Addressing Building Related Illness vs. Sick Building Syndrome

While Building Related Illness can be addressed by medically treating the affected individuals, the same cannot be said about Sick Building Syndrome, since the cause of the symptoms is unknown. The best course of action is to inspect the “sick” building and identify possible sources of or conditions contributing to air contamination, and then take action to correct the situation. 

Potential Solutions for Sick Building Syndrome

Solutions may involve the following:

1. Ensuring Proper Air Conditioner Maintenance: This includes regular filter cleaning and/or replacement to maintain air quality.

2. Installing Ventilation Systems: Ventilation systems can help move contaminants to the outdoors, improving indoor air quality.

3. Optimizing Air Conditioning Systems: Ensuring that the air conditioning system is operating at an air distribution rate that meets ventilation standards.


- Healthy Building. “Sick Building Syndrome and Building Related Illness” Environmental Consulting. October 2, 2015.

- United States Environmental Protection Agency “Indoor Facts No. 4 (revised) Sick Building Syndrome”. EPA Air and Radiation, Research and Development. February 1991.

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