Understanding Sick Building Syndrome and How to Prevent It

Sick building syndrome is a situation where one experiences acute health issues and/or discomfort when spending time in a specific building. It is classified as a “syndrome” because it is manifested as a host of different symptoms, which can all be linked to the time one spends in a building. In general, they do not manifest when that person leaves that building. This syndrome is especially prevalent in buildings with poor indoor air quality.

Who Is at Risk?

Anyone can experience this condition provided they spend some time in a given building. However, it is common amongst office workers in modern day buildings that lack proper ventilation and air conditioning systems do not seem to be working optimally. Studies have also shown that women are more likely to get affected than men. Some of the common places where people experience SBS symptoms include schools, public libraries and museums.

Manifestations of SBS

People with this syndrome exhibit a number of nonspecific symptoms such as headache, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, diarrhea, sneezing, stiffness, gas, bloating and chest pains. There is usually no clear set of symptoms that can describe the condition, and they vary from one person to person. These symptoms disappear when the individual leaves the building, but typically re-appear when they return to it.

Prevention of Sick Building Syndrome

According to people who suffer from this condition, they mostly get attacks when in poorly ventilated buildings. Therefore, one of the best ways of preventing it is by ensuring that there is continuous flow of air in the building. In fact, focusing on indoor air quality is the ultimate prevention for SBS. This is achieved by administering proper ventilation system maintenance.

The general cleanliness of the building is also critical. Keep floors clean and vacuum cleaners should be in proper working condition and emptied regularly. Their filters also need to be clean. Air filters, humidifiers and cooling towers must also be in proper shape to prevent sick building syndrome.

Many people who suffer from SBS have not really figured out that they have the condition. As a building manager or employer, you can protect the health and safety of the people accessing your premises by ensuring that your air quality is properly tested by professional air quality experts.


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