If you have ever become ill a day or two after taking a flight, you probably blamed the chilly air con and recirculated air inside the plane for your runny nose and chesty cough.
Studies vary on the cleanliness of the cabin air but ensuring that you are being blasted with cool air from the overhead vent could be one way to actually avoid getting sick.
While turning off that little vent is probably up there with one of the first things to do as you settle down into your seat, an expert has warned this could actually be a huge mistake.
Dr. Mark Gendreau, medical director and vice chair of emergency medicine at Lahey Medical Center-Peabody in Massachusetts and an expert in infectious diseases during air travel says that keeping the air vent turned on can help you avoid coming into contact with microorganisms that can make you sick during a flight.
Dr Gendreau says it’s a misconception that cabin air isn’t clean.
Speaking to Travel + Leisure, Dr Gendreau said:
“Ventilation on airplanes has gotten a bad reputation, but it’s completely unfounded,”
“The flow pattern of air on an aircraft doesn’t necessarily work front to back, or back to front. It’s actually compartmentalized into various sections on the aircraft,” Gendreau said.
“As a rule of thumb, the air that you’re typically breathing and exposed to is usually anywhere from two to five rows surrounding your seat,” he added.
Dr Gendreau says air in the cabin goes through a filtration process between 15 and 30 times every hour and that 50 percent of the air is recirculated but 50 percent comes from outside.
While the filtration process removes as much as 99 percent of the dust and microbes from the air inside the cabin, there are still times when you may want to use the air vent to remove other microbes from your personal space, Dr Gendreau says.
“For airborne viruses, it is incredibly important to ventilate, since ventilation becomes your main means of control besides isolating the affected person,” Gendreau said.
So no matter how cold you feel, reach for the free blanket, rather than turning the off the air vent to get warm.