Sick Building Syndrome (Environmental Illness, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity or MCS)

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

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What are risk factors for sick building syndrome?

Individuals who believe sick building syndrome is real consider the following as some of the major risk factors, but individual people may have only a few of these risk factors:

  • Spending time in a building that causes some or many of the nonspecific symptoms listed below
  • Heightened sensitivity to environmental antigens
  • Have one or more diagnosed medical problems (for example, asthma)
  • Heightened sensitivity of smell
  • Females are more likely to develop symptoms
  • Gulf War veteran
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

However, proponents of the opposing view suggest these are general risk factors for many already-defined medical problems and offer little to clinicians who treat patients with the nonspecific symptoms (see symptoms section below) others attribute to this disease.

What are sick building syndrome symptoms and signs?

Proponents of the sick building syndrome agree that people considered to have the syndrome may exhibit any number of nonspecific symptoms that may be increased when the person is associated with certain buildings. The symptoms are as follows:

There is no pattern or clear set of symptoms that fit criteria for a new syndrome in the opinion of many clinicians and investigators; these symptoms are often part of symptoms of many other diagnosable medical conditions.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/23/2015

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