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Sick building syndrome

Sick building syndrome is the name for symptoms you only get while in a particular building, usually an office.

Check if you have sick building syndrome

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
  • rashes
  • tiredness and difficulty concentrating

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

How to ease the symptoms yourself

It might help to:

  • open windows to improve ventilation, if you can
  • not set the temperature too high (aim for about 19C) and don't change it lots of times during the day
  • try to reduce workplace stress
  • take regular screen breaks if you use a computer
  • go outside for some fresh air during lunchtime and other breaks

Try these things to see if your symptoms improve.

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.

Causes of sick building syndrome

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

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

  • poor ventilation or poorly maintained air conditioning systems
  • dust, smoke, fumes or fabric fibres in the air
  • bright or flickering lights

Sick building syndrome is most common in open-plan offices, but you can get it in any building.