vent, catch a cold

Is it possible to improve the air you breathe on an airplane? What about that little vent over your seat? Is it doing anything to help?

Most people realize that air travel increases the chance of catching a cold or some other respiratory infection. That’s because air circulation on airplanes leaves a lot to be desired.

Half the air you breathe is recycled within the cabin. The other half, however, is mixed with outside air. A High efficiency particulate air filter (HEPA) catches dust and germs.

Leave Your Vent On!

But you will be exposed to cold or flu viruses if someone coughs or sneezes in your general vicinity. That is why you want to keep the air vent on over your seat. A lot of people find that air too cold or annoying, but it is helpful in keeping germs out of your personal space.

The turbulence that air flow creates keeps your personal space cleaner and freer of viruses and other particles. A low or medium setting should be sufficient.

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  1. S Scaggs

    I am so glad I asked for estrogen for my hot spells. I had them for 10 years after I started into menopause . Now that I am older and have started to fall more as my muscles are not as good. I have fallen hard enough to break bones, but so far have not. In a bone scan she said it was starting to thin so I upped my calcium and vitamin d=3. She said it filled in.

    • kim

      The reference to the “ask the pilot” website was very helpful — thank you

  2. Raffi

    Every 7-11 minutes (depending upon size of the cabin) the whole Aircraft cabin air is replaced by the Aircraft Air-conditioning system. Still its a good practice to use vents to keep the air moving.

  3. Ron
    Flat Rock, NC

    While I routinely keep the vent on slightly (primarily because planes get stuffy), frankly, one of my concerns has been just the opposite: that someone sitting rows away from me will cough or sneeze and the air circulation system will bring the germs to me!

  4. kim

    I have been reading about the “outside air” brought in to the airplane’s cabin, and that all commercial passenger airplanes (with one exception) are designed to use something referred to as “bleed air”, meaning that the outside air is brought through the engines to warm it before it enters the cabin. This also means that it brings with it whatever oils, fuel, etc. it encounters in the engine. Some employee groups say they have been made sick – aerotoxic syndrome – from occupational exposure, and that this also poses a risk to passengers, especially those who fly often.

    Do you have any knowledge or thoughts about this issue? I emailed American Airlines asking about it (I fly on American about once a month). They acknowledged receipt of the inquiry, but after that, silence.

  5. Rick

    Its strange that people have not suffered from Legionaries disease by breathing the air conditioning in a large commercial air liner. The chemicals and jet fuels used in the aviation industry could kill an immuno suppress person as far as the fuels burnt in the aircraft the emissions from the turbine engine could cause harm to the people on the ground.

  6. Linda

    Never thought of it this way. On long flights probably good but what if you have a cold? Is this harming others?

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