Sick Building Syndrome

By | June 10, 2022

Especially in people who work in offices, symptoms such as burning eyes, runny nose and headaches often appear after a long time at work or after work. After leaving the building, these symptoms improve again in the foreseeable future. In the professional world, these symptoms are referred to as sick building syndrome.

What is Sick Building Syndrome?

Sick Building Syndrome ( SBS ) describes various health problems associated with buildings. Complaints of this kind are increasing in the working world. The main association of professional associations (HVBG) estimates that around 30 percent of all office workers in industrialized countries suffer from sick building syndrome and this causes economic losses in the billions. For testicular atrophy definitions, please visit

Typical symptoms of sick building syndrome are headaches, eye irritation, skin and mucous membrane irritation, concentration problems , dizziness and coughing. However, since these symptoms also occur in other people, it is not so easy to diagnose with certainty.

Sick building syndrome is when at least 20 percent of employees experience the symptoms mentioned and they improve outside of the building. In addition to offices, schools, day care centers, hospitals and laboratories can also be affected.


Environmental physicians see a number of factors in buildings as the causes of sick building syndrome. Floor coverings, wallpaper, wall paints, adhesives, building materials, furniture, wood protection paints can make you ill. Psychosocial factors can also play a role, but complaints should not be hastily classified as psychological.

Unfavorable lighting conditions, a high noise level and humidity can also lead to complaints, mold and house dust mites in particular can massively restrict the state of mind and performance and promote allergies. Since sick building syndrome cannot be determined 100 percent, it must be differentiated from the term Building Related Illness (BRI).

In which clear causes such as chemical exposure or exposure to germs or allergens are proven. Screen activity, which is often associated with poor sitting posture, passive smoking or electrosmog from computers, fax machines or copiers also play a major role.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

The symptoms that can occur with sick building syndrome depend very much on the trigger and on the physical conditions of those affected. Characteristic complaints are headaches, dizziness, skin and mucous membrane problems, respiratory symptoms, nausea, tiredness and exhaustion. One or more symptoms can occur together.

If no other cause can be found for the symptoms even after a medical examination, it always makes sense to look for possible causes in the building, especially if other residents or employees also suffer from comparable symptoms. It is typical of the symptoms that the complaints increase in the premises, subside again after leaving the building and increase again when staying in the building again.

Diagnosis & course of disease

In order to be able to determine sick building syndrome, it is advisable to first interview the people affected. The problem has been known in the USA since the 1970s. Between 1994 and 2000, researchers at the University of Jena interviewed over 5,000 office workers and carried out measurements at 1,500 workstations. It turned out that psychosocial factors apparently play a greater role than the room climate, because subjective assessments of the well-being did not correspond to objective measurement results.

For an exact diagnosis, a thorough investigation of the causes by environmental physicians makes sense, who can determine whether only individuals or whole groups are affected. First of all, those affected are asked which complaints occur when and where, during which activities, whether there have been changes in the workplace conditions or the working atmosphere.

If the suspicion of chemical vapors or an unfavorable room climate is confirmed, room measurements are carried out. There are quick tests to determine the contamination of air conditioning systems. Complaints should always be taken seriously, because some pollutants can trigger frequent sick leave if exposed to prolonged exposure. This can also lead to permanent disability.


Sick building syndrome can lead to a variety of symptoms. These depend heavily on the respective air pollution, so that no general course can be predicted. As a rule, the patient’s state of health also has a high influence on the further complications of this syndrome.

Those affected sometimes suffer from tiredness and exhaustion. Difficulty breathing occurs, and nausea is not uncommon. In most cases, the symptoms increase when the patients are in the building. It can also cause severe headaches or dizziness.

In children, sick building syndrome has a very negative effect on development and can significantly limit and delay it. There may also be problems at school. In most cases, the symptoms worsen if the cause of the sick building syndrome is not addressed. As a rule, this requires a move or a comprehensive renovation of a living space.

Especially in schools or kindergartens, sick building syndrome can lead to severe breathing difficulties and a significant loss of concentration. The symptoms of sick building syndrome can only be combated with the help of sanitation or frequent ventilation. This ventilation is particularly necessary in school facilities. Whether sick building syndrome actually has a negative effect on the life expectancy of those affected cannot be predicted in general.

When should you go to the doctor?

Sick building syndrome always needs to be evaluated and treated by a medical professional. This is a serious condition that can have a very negative effect on the patient’s quality of life and can significantly reduce it. If left untreated, sick building syndrome also leads to a significantly reduced life expectancy for those affected. For this reason, a doctor should be consulted at the first symptoms of sick building syndrome, although a change of residence is usually also recommended. A doctor should therefore be consulted if the person concerned suffers from severe tiredness or breathing difficulties after staying indoors.

Those affected appear very sluggish and can no longer actively participate in everyday life. In some cases, permanent nausea sets in, so that the patients also suffer from loss of appetite. A doctor should be consulted in particular if these symptoms occur after staying in a room and do not go away on their own. In the case of sick building syndrome, a general practitioner can be consulted in the first place, who can diagnose the disease. Since direct treatment of the disease is not possible, the stay in the respective rooms must be interrupted immediately in order to prevent further damage to the body of the person concerned.

Treatment & Therapy

Since sick building syndrome is difficult and not easy to diagnose, there is no uniform therapy, but rather it depends on the individual symptoms and conditions. The two main pillars of treatment are eliminating the cause and relieving the symptoms. If the indoor climate is the cause, installing a better air filter or better maintenance can contribute to an improvement.

If diagnostics revealed that harmful materials were used, they must be replaced and rooms sanitized. If no clear cause and no polluter can be determined in the rooms, general measures such as regular airing of the rooms and professional heating sometimes help. Ten minutes of forced airing makes more sense than permanently tilted windows.

Indoor plants can also make a major contribution to improving the indoor climate. Plants such as Dieffenbachia and ferns in particular are able to filter pollutants from the air, but plants also increase the humidity at the same time, which can promote mold. Therefore, a balance between the desired filter effect and the increase in humidity makes sense.


Timely prevention is even more important than treatment so that sick building syndrome does not develop in the first place. Even during construction or renovation, care should be taken to use non-toxic materials and room furnishings. To improve the room quality, regular ventilation is recommended, preferably intermittent ventilation. Plants act like a natural air filter and contribute greatly to the well-being in rooms. Attention should also be paid to the level of pollutants in office furniture and equipment.


In most cases, those affected with sick building syndrome have only a few and only limited measures and options for direct aftercare. Therefore, the patient should ideally see a doctor very early on to prevent further symptoms and complications from occurring. In general, the affected person should not be in the building through which these complaints and symptoms occurred.

Regular examinations and checks by a doctor are very important in order to identify other damage and complaints early on and thus treat them early. In most cases, self-healing cannot occur. In particular, the lungs of those affected should be checked particularly well and frequently in order to detect damage at an early stage.

Surgery may also be necessary to completely relieve the symptoms of sick building syndrome. After such an operation, the person concerned should rest and rest in any case, avoiding exertion or stressful and physical activities. Sick Building Syndrome may also reduce the patient’s life expectancy if detected late, with the general course being very dependent on the time of diagnosis.

You can do that yourself

Dealing with sick building syndrome on a day-to-day basis becomes problematic when it is unavoidable to stay in the rooms that cause the symptoms. A survey can be used to determine whether several people suffer from irritation and discomfort. The questionnaires for the people in the affected building aim to collect the collective impressions. If it is just one individual who complains of being in poor health, there may be a psychosomatic cause. Otherwise, it’s time to take a closer look at the conditions in the building or workplace.

The first self-help is to air the premises thoroughly. Removing the recognized trigger also has a positive effect on general well-being. In addition to reducing the use of pollutants, replacing the air-conditioning technology can also help.

If the signs point to psychosomatic complaints, then the patients need individual psychiatric therapy. Concentration exercises or specially developed strategies for overcoming the discomfort can also be useful in normal working life. In addition to the physical symptoms, this also improves mood, motivation and self-esteem.

Sick Building Syndrome