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Holiday home - is it a sick building? If so, what can we do?

Our family owns a small terraced house on the Dorset coast which we have used for decades as a holiday home. The building itself is probably 200 years old and had become quite run down, with a severe damp problem amongst other things, so we completely refurbished it last year at some considerable expense.

Previously, several people had complained about the damp causing breathing problems and my girlfriend appeared to develop asthma a couple of years back after spending 3 weeks on holiday in the house.

As part of the building works, therefore, we ensured the building was made as dry as possible (I don't think it has a damp course as it is too old for one) and was completely replastered in special lime plaster to prevent damp. In addition, central heating was installed and the house is much warmer throughout the winter. We thought as a result that the damp problem had been cured and my girlfriend and I have returned on several occasions with no difficulties.

However, both an adult friend who visited the house a few weeks back and the 3-year-old son of friends who stayed there this weekend have suffered such severe asthma attacks they have been admitted to A&E. Both do have allergy problems so does this seem like coincidence or could it be linked to the house? If so, what can we do about it? There are a couple of cupboards that don't seem to have been replastered and still smell musty so could they be causing it?

Help! It's such a lovely place that we want to be able to allow friends and family to use it but don't feel we can recommend it if it's going to make everyone sick.

4 Replies

I dont have any answers, but your post reminded me of a problem I had once when I stayed at a friends - or tried to! She lived in a very old cottage, and they were renovating part of it. I ended up having a severe asthma attack, and it transpired I was allergic to the horsehair plaster in the house, which they used to use - and can still be found in very old homes. Unfortunately I was only there a couple of hours, and couldnt spend the night there as it made me too ill.

I wonder if allergy uk would be able to give you any ideas?

Lynda :)


Richard, do you only use the house in the summer months?


You could alway purchase or perhaps borrow a damp meter and check out the levels of dampness in the cupboards and around the house to see if the damp levels are rising within the house.

I did wonder as you are on the Dorset coast and the house is old is it possible you live in an area where there are naturally high radon levels.


I recently spent a long weekend in a friend's extremely old cottage in Somerset. It had double glazing, central heating and was generally fairly clean and modern inside. However, the first morning I woke up with the most awful cold, which had already started to make me wheeze. Yet when we went out for the day I was absolutely fine. When we got home in the evening it started again so I took antihistamine and increased my preventer, which significantly reduced the symptoms. It was a really good holiday, and I would definately repeat the experience, but would be prepared beforehand.

When I told my Mum about it she remembered a family holiday we had when I was about 13 (before current medication was developed). We stayed in a very old cottage and my asthma became worse each day, until I had to be admitted to hospital. Nobody could tell us why but as soon as I got home it disappeared. Allergies weren't something that were considered much in those days, but it was very obviously the house that I was allergic to.


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