How to prevent sick house syndrome


According to a report commissioned by the Australian Government in 2016 regarding the state of the environment, Australians spend close to 90% of their lives indoors.

For a large portion of the population that indoor time is spent in their own homes – and even more so since COVID-19 has forced so many of us to isolate and work from home.

So now, more than ever, our homes need to provide us with a healthy sanctuary and certainly not contribute to any ongoing medical or health issues.

It’s probably safe to say that when you are thinking about buying a home, Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) or Sick House Syndrome (SHS), is not something that you have considered in any detail, if at all. You may not even know what it means….

What is Sick Building Syndrome?

The World Health Organisation came up with the term ‘Sick Building Syndrome’ (SBS) in 1983. They defined it as:

“the occurrence of specific symptoms with unspecified aetiology, and are experienced by people while working or living in a particular building, but which disappear after they leave it.”

The types of symptoms include:

● Headaches;
● Muscle aches;
● Fatigue;
● Rashes;
● Respiratory issues.

SBS is very simply caused by poor indoor air quality. The air quality may be poor due to a number of different factors, but the ability to effectively seal buildings and houses has exacerbated and trapped toxins and pollutants in our homes. It is estimated that up to 30% of newly built or renovated properties have some form of SBS/SHS. The types of things that affect the air quality are:

● Inadequate ventilation;
● Indoor chemical pollutants – such as toxic fumes from carpets and upholstery and asbestos;
● Biological contaminants – such as mould, bacteria and dust.

So if you are looking for a new home – what can you do to avoid buying a property affected by the syndrome?

The standard pest and building pre purchase inspections are a great place to start, as they will list issues such as asbestos and mould, so you can choose whether to avoid or remedy the defects prior to moving in.

If you have already purchased a new home and think that perhaps you are suffering from SBS, then there are things you can do to remedy the situation.

  1. Ensure that your home is regularly cleaned, dusted and vacuumed – it goes without saying that a clean home will go a long way to preventing issues with dust and mould.
  2. Buy furniture and rugs that have low volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) and use cleaning products derived from natural ingredients.
  3. Use and clean air filters regularly – portable air filters are a great way to easily clean the air in your home and remove toxins from the atmosphere. Also remember to clean the filter components, and that includes the ones in your air conditioning unit as well.
  4. Use a humidifier to increase the humidity in the air, to stop dry air from causing coughs and nasal congestion. A diffuser can also be used to introduce the health benefits of essential oils into your home.
  5. Add water filters to taps and fridges and ensure that your water is always sparkling and fresh
  6. Open windows and allow for clean, fresh air if at all possible.

Sick Building Syndrome can be hard to diagnose and is generally only found by eliminating all the other factors that could be causing poor health, however implementing these tips will help ensure that your home is indeed the sanctuary it should be.

By Christine Carlisle

Christine is a freelance senior writer for Home Health Living and has been writing for us for 4 years. She's a health copywriter with over 10 years experience as a writer. Christine lives alone in a cabin in Maine and was once a hand model while living in New York City. She's a dog person.