This study aimed to describe the experiences and encounters of a group of people with Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) as their symptoms emerged.
Design, methods and subjects:
A semi-structured interview was performed with 10 informants with symptoms of SBS. Five of them were previously diagnosed and had participated in an earlier follow-up study. The remaining five had had SBS symptoms for a shorter period. The interviews were analysed using qualitative content analysis. To ensure trustworthiness triangulation was used.
The analysis resulted in a main theme: Conflicting Interpretations of SBS Symptoms, and three subthemes: Gradual Understanding of SBS Symptoms, Experience of Rejection and Experience of Confirmation. The main theme and the sub-themes together represent a process where the informants’ experiences of belief and support, lack of support and disbelief and limited understanding occurs when they are perceiving symptoms, looking for explanations, understanding the connection between symptoms and being in a poor indoor environment and while managing their SBS symptoms.
The symptoms, when they first appear, often appear similar to that of flu. When the informants realise the connection between the symptoms and the building some of them decide that “Okay, enough is enough, there’s nothing wrong with me, it’s the building”. Many of the informants act to change the way they manage the situation as a result of increased symptoms. During this whole process the informants/patients perceived a lack of confirmation and support from e.g. employers, primary health care and occupational health care centres. The informants were confirmed by colleagues acting for a better indoor environment.
The symptoms of SBS are diffuse and difficult to recognise for all involved. The experiences of those who have dealt with this issue are in line with knowledge relating to other diseases not recognised as legitimate. It is important for healthcare personnel to be aware of the possible connection between symptoms and the indoor environment. For employers and facility managers, knowledge of their obligations in terms of the working environment is important. The importance of confirmation in encounters has to be underlined.
Sick Building Syndrome, interviews, qualitative, symptoms, encounters, conflicting interpretations