Are you feeling the cubicle walls close in on you as the warming days of summer begin to pass you by? Well, summer fever may not be the only fever you will have to tend to as ‘office sickness’ (a.k.a. sick building syndrome) becomes an all too common occurrence for many office building workers. To make things worse, most people do not know the symptoms of office sickness and often misinterpret them as just another flu bug. It’s a bug alright, but not of the flu variety; we’re talking cockroach dropping, dirty ventilation systems, cleaning agents; chemicals from office equipment, furniture, vinyl flooring and new carpeting. These all represent some of the most common causes of office sickness. Now that you know what causes it; how do you know if you’re suffering from it?
It can get a little tricky to diagnose office sickness. The symptoms often replicate the common cold. Your biggest clue is if you find yourself well when you are away from the office and increasingly sicker the longer you stay. The symptoms to watch for include headaches, nosebleeds, chronic fatigue, dry itchy skin, edema (swelling of lower extremities), heart palpitations, nausea and sometimes even cancer. Office sickness may be a year around threat, but especially becomes volatile in the spring. This occurs because of the seasonal change weakening the immune defenses and moldy, bacteria infested air-conditioning units starting back up.
If your symptoms are in the beginning stages you can try a few tactics to reduce their severity. Household plants are great for removing harmful chemicals from the air. The bamboo palm, English Ivy and Gerber Daisy are great for the job. Taking daily doses of vitamin supplements such as vitamin C, garlic, Echinacea, Cat’s Claw and barley grass can help boost your immune system. Just follow up with your doctor before choosing the right ones for you. A quality air cleaning unit can be helpful, or better yet, open a window (if it’s not sealed) or office door to help purge enough contaminants to keep you healthy during this year’s seasonal transition. However, if you are past minor symptoms and experiencing severe discomfort, then it’s time to take serious action.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) can arm you with information, occupational health clinic recommendations and the proper forms to register a complaint against your office building. It will help if you can combine efforts with other workers experiencing the same problems. You will need at least two other workers to file the complaint successfully; but be weary that many of them will hesitate to take action for fear of losing their job. Document every step that you take to render the situation. If it ends up in court you will want to be armed for bear so to speak. Or I should rather say armed for cockroaches; both of the bug class and careless corporate executive sorts!