Is Your Home Making You Sick?

Sometimes the allergies and colds we get are caused by the irritants in our homes. We often feel that our house is a safe place, and it should be, but the truth is that sometimes our homes are making us sick. We can control some of the allergens and toxins in the air, but we must simply test for others. What could be hiding in your home that could be making you sick?


There are a few symptoms that may tell you that you are living in a sick house. Many people classify home or building-based illnesses either as having sick building syndrome or merely a building-based illness. Sick house or sick building syndrome usually comes and goes. For instance, if you feel that your body begins to feel differently while in a particular building, it may be due to the allergens and triggers in the home. If this is the case, you will notice an improvement upon leaving. Sometimes up to two hours is needed inside or outside to see the changes. The primary symptoms, according to Hayword Score, are respiratory, cognitive, emotional, and physical.

Respiratory symptoms may include coughing, shortness of breath, congestion, asthma, allergies, sinus infections, and anything that affects the comfort and efficiency of your breathing. The cognitive symptoms that patients notice are often confusion, brain fog, forgetfulness, headaches, and sleep disturbances. Emotional symptoms include depression, anxiety, and agitation. Finally, the physical symptoms might be stomach or muscle aches, fatigue, rash, hives, sore throat, and itchy eyes. One of these symptoms alone would point to your home being the offender, but many of these symptoms together may be a red flag.


Dust, pollen, mold/mildew and pet dander can wreak havoc on your allergies. While everyone is not affected by allergens, millions of people around the world suffer from them annually. Minimizing allergens in your home can help you to feel better, but it can be hard to stop the build-up of dust and pollen and our pets are here to stay so we need to look for altnernatives. You should consider an air filtration system, minimizing indoor pets and plants, or a central vacuum. You can also brush and clean your pets regularly as this will reduce the dander that can be a problem. And for mold and mildew, you can take a look at some mold removal tips.


Tobacco smoke is probably the easiest irritant to minimize. While no one can tell you whether or not to smoke, we do suggest that smokers go outdoors and keep away from open doors and windows. This can be uncomfortable in hot, rainy, or freezing weather, but smoke inside the home will be an irritant long after the pipe, cigar, or cigarette is extinguished. Smoking inside the house builds up toxins on walls, in carpets, and on furniture. You can cut down on this by not allowing smoke inside your home.

Foodborne Illness

Not all foodborne illnesses come from improper temperatures, but some do. To minimize food poisoning, give your kitchen a quick makeover. Look for broken or cracked cutting boards, scratched pots and pans, and damaged utensils. Cracks and crevices are difficult to clean, and they often harbor bacteria. Replace any kitchen equipment that cannot be easily cleaned and consider getting a food thermometer. If your refrigerator is not cooling properly or your stove does not heat properly, look into repairs and replacements. Foodborne illness is an easy hazard to avoid.

Chemical Use and Storage

Some chemicals can be toxic so avoid using toxic chemicals if at all possible. Organic and non-toxic cleaning solutions can help cut down on the number of poisonous substances kept around your house; however, sometimes, you must use one. If you must use a toxic substance, consider where and how you store it. Keep it out of reach of small children and maintain the area so that it does not overheat or mix with other chemicals. Some chemicals become fatal if mixed together making responsible chemical use and storage are crucial around your home.

Old Building Materials

While asbestos and lead paint are no longer used, some older homes may still contain some of these substances. Lead paint and asbestos can be removed, but it can be costly, depending on the paint that is left in the home. As many homes have been upgraded over the years, lead paint may have been removed from some rooms. If you have lead paint or asbestos insulation, remove it as quickly as possible. Both have been linked with deaths, and asbestos can cause lung problems and even cancer. Lead paint has also been linked to children’s deaths.

Water Supplies

While most water is clean and healthy, sometimes well water can become bacteria infested. Nitrates and minerals can also affect water quality. Installing a whole house water filter or even a single tap filter can cut down on the problems with your water supply. Frequently testing and treating your well will also minimize the problems within the water supply. Consider upgrading pipes and plumbing whenever possible.


Carbon monoxide and Radon are dangerous gases that have few flags. Often, people who are affected never even knew what was happening. Installing detectors and monitors will help reduce the likelihood you will fall victim to one of these gases. They are often odorless, colorless, and tasteless. They have both been referred to as silent killers. Carbon Monoxide detectors are often included in smoke alarms these days. Radon detection usually requires testing, and these tests are a bit more expensive, but you cannot put a price on life.

Outdoor Chemicals

Pesticides and lawn treatment chemicals can be toxic, especially to animals. Try to use organic natural pesticides that will not harm neighborhood pets. Planting a variety of fruits, vegetables, and plants may also help. Take a trip to a local garden center to learn more about using safe pesticides and chemicals in your garden and on your lawn.


While the following may not actually cause a chemical build-up, you may find that certain things can exacerbate your irritation. Vacuums, for instance, will sometimes not filter the air. They can blow dust and particles back through their vents. As mentioned earlier a central vacuum system will minimize this as will a HEPA filter. Likewise, heaters, air conditioners, and refrigerators can build up dust and particles. Their filters must be changed regularly to minimize the irritants in the air. Air filtration systems can also help with airborne particulates. Rain and wind can stir up the soil, which can increase your radon levels. While you cannot prevent the rain, if you notice a change in mood, health, or wellness after storms, you may want to have the radon levels monitored.

Final Thoughts

While you cannot change the fact that some of these occur, taking precautions and using tools to monitor for issues can be two of the best steps you will take. If you notice that you feel ill within a short time of being home but feel better a short time after leaving, there could be a hidden toxin in your home. If you have dealt with sick house syndrome, you know that it can be challenging to pinpoint the culprit. Consider each of the above one at a time in an effort to eliminate each possible trigger.