6 Ways to Protect Your Home from Sick Building Syndrome

Sick building syndrome (SBS) describes a situation when the inhabitants of a building report various symptoms of illness, but these symptoms lessen when they spend time away from the building.

Symptoms of SBS

The number of people affected or the sickness symptoms displayed, varies across buildings suspected to have SBS.

SBS is typically associated with office buildings. For instance, employees report feeling tired within a few hours of arriving at work.

The general symptoms of SBS are –

  • Headaches
  • Feeling tired
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Nausea
  • Irritation of the eyes, throat, or nose
  • Skin is itchy or dry
  • Coughing

What causes SBS?

It is difficult to determine what is causing the ill health in people working or staying in a building with SBS. Some might say that a ‘gloomy office environment and pressures at work’ are more likely the cause of employees reporting symptoms of illness.

However, in the 1970’s the design of office buildings changed significantly. In an aim to reduce energy consumption, buildings were made airtight.  At the same time, computers, printers, and copiers began to dominate workspaces. This had a major impact on the indoor office environment that most people worked in.

Over the last decade there has been growing public concern on the indoor air quality (IAQ) in offices.  Poor IAQ is seen as the prime cause of SBS. A four-year study published in Journal of the American Medical Association (1998), involving 400,000 US Army recruits  revealed that trainees housed in barracks that were more modern were 50% more likely to develop respiratory problems, than trainees that lived in less airtight buildings.

Several SBS investigations have blamed the sickness symptoms on the following factors –

  • Poor indoor air ventilation
  • Humidity
  • Dust-mite pollution emanating from carpets and upholstered furniture in offices and homes
  • Chemical emissions from electronic equipment
  • Lack of hygiene, which makes the building perfect breeding ground for bacteria and mould
  • Chemical compounds in cleaning products
  • Poor maintenance of heating systems
  • Tobacco smoke

Preventing SBS at home        

In fact, these commonly recognized causes of SBS may well exist in your home, causing you and your family members to have frequent incidents of poor health.

The good news is that you take steps to avoid symptoms of SBS at home. These include –

1. Ensure adequate air-ventilation at home. When possible, keep the windows open to allow for natural airflow. Use an air purifier to maintain the indoor air quality. You can buy an air purifier or rent an air purifier through MiteyFresh.

2. Maintain the humidity level at less than 50%. This can be achieved by placing a dehumidifier in your home.

3. Have a few indoor plants.

4. Use natural cleaning products to reduce the presence of airborne chemicals in your home. We highly recommend ‘Surface Spray Abode’.

5. Clean regularly to get rid of mould, mildew. Place storage dehumidifiers in your wardrobes and cupboards, pantries, and basements to reduce dampness and prevent fungal growth.

6. Use microfibre cloths to effectively clean your home without the use of chemical sprays.

For more information on eliminating indoor pollution in your home and fighting off SBS, speak to our home-care advisor on 02 9986 3432. You can also email us.

Photo credit: marin, freedigitalphotos


  • Carol Parr

    We’re glad you’re here. We’re Carol and Tony, founders of one of the longest running Healthy Home Blogs in the world, Mitey Fresh Australia. We’ve been on this journey for the last 25 years and are passionate about helping families sift through health hazards and triggers like allergens, mould, water damage, chemicals and EMFs, to get clarity about what’s toxic and what’s not so they can create a healthy and happy home for their family they love. Each month, people visit this blog seeking focus on the health and wellbeing of their loved ones, sustainable and effective practice tips and guides, to help create and manage healthier indoor spaces, improve the built environment that is pleasing to the senses and support healthy living and nature, every day. Starting this blog was to help change people’s lives, one family at a time, and we can’t wait to share how its allowed us to stand next to you and show you how interpreting these synergies between buildings and the environment they are built in will impact upon the health and well-being of those who occupy them. Find out more about Healthy Homes and what this blog can do for you!

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