Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (Sick Building Syndrome)

What is Multiple Chemical Sensitivity?

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity is a severe reaction that resembles an allergic reaction that occurs after exposure to chemicals, environmental irritants or mold inside a building. Sometimes called Sick Building Syndrome, this sensitivity is not like an allergy because it’s not fully understood why the body has this reaction.

In many cases, the building’s ventilation system is not adequate for removing biological and chemical irritants. Less-than-ideal temperature and humidity can contribute to the problem. In order for Sick Building Syndrome to be diagnosed, multiple people are usually affected with similar issues.

What are the Symptoms of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity?

Sufferers of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity can have a wide range of symptoms. These can be similar to a severe allergy, including headache, respiratory illness, rashes, sinus problems, shortness of breath, burning or watery eyes and fatigue. Some people also because nauseous or develop a sore throat and cough. You may also notice a bad odor or feel particularly sensitive to odors.

Symptoms are usually worst when you spend time in a particular building or part of a building, then lessen or go away completely when you leave. As well, you may be less affected by symptoms at different times of the year; for example, biological irritants like black mold may be worse in warm and humid settings and get better during periods of cooler temperatures.

How is Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Treated?

It can be difficult to treat Multiple Chemical Sensitivity that is caused by the building that you live or work in. The building’s air quality should be examined by a qualified inspector and changes made to the ventilation system if necessary. However, if your landlord or employer is not willing or able to take this step, you may need to find a different place to live or a new job in order to fully recover from the illness.

Last Reviewed:
October 10, 2016
Last Updated:
August 31, 2017
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