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 when you travel, you come into contact with a lot of other people. One or more of them may be harboring a virus they’ll inadvertently share with you.
While in the air, planes have very good ventilation. True, 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) pulls dust and germs out of the recirculated air.
Leave Your Vent On!
But you will be exposed to COVID, 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.
Though travelers are not currently required to wear masks, a high-quality mask such as an N95 can provide you with a fair amount of protection from airborne pathogens.
Should You Take Echinacea?
Q. After I caught a head cold while traveling, my doctor told me to take echinacea the day before getting on a plane, the day on the plane, and for one day afterward. I’ve followed this advice for years and never caught a cold on an airplane since.
A. We understand that the air filtration systems on airplanes is very good. That said, traveling can be stressful. You also come in contact with lots of people who might be shedding viruses.
Echinacea is a popular herbal treatment that has antiviral activity. It may also help stimulate the immune system to help fight off cold or flu infections.
However, this botanical medicine may interact with prescription medications such as amiodarone, carbamazepine, felodipine, methotrexate and sildenafil. Always check with a physician and pharmacist to avoid dangerous combinations.