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Sick building syndrome

Sick building syndrome is the name for symptoms you get while you're in a particular building. It usually happens in an office, but you can get it in any building.

Symptoms of sick building syndrome get worse the longer you're in a particular building and get better after you leave.

Other people in the building may also have symptoms.

Possible symptoms include:

  • headaches
  • blocked or runny nose
  • dry, itchy skin
  • dry, sore eyes or throat
  • cough or wheezing
  • rashes
  • tiredness and difficulty concentrating
Information:

These symptoms are common and can be caused by lots of things. They're unlikely to be a sign of sick building syndrome if you have them all the time, or when you're in lots of different places.

It might help to:

  • open windows to improve ventilation, if you can
  • set the temperature at about 18C and do not change it lots of times during the day
  • try to reduce stress
  • take regular screen breaks if you use a computer
  • go outside for some fresh air during lunchtime and other breaks

Non-urgent advice: If you think you have sick building syndrome, speak to:

  • your manager or employer – if you get symptoms at work
  • the building manager or owner (such as the landlord) – if you get symptoms in another building

They should look into the problem and try to find a solution.

You can also get help and advice from:

The HSE has advice for employers and building managers on how to deal with sick building syndrome.

It's not clear exactly what causes sick building syndrome.

It's probably due to a combination of things, such as:

  • poor ventilation or poorly maintained air conditioning systems
  • dust, smoke, fumes or fabric fibres in the air
  • bright or flickering lights
  • problems with cleaning and layout, such as crowded desks

Sick building syndrome mostly happens in open-plan offices.