The Hidden Benefits of Turning on the Air Vent Above You During a Flight

Air Vent

If you think to turn on the air vent above you might get you cold or you’re just afraid you might fall sick, why not think again. Have you ever stopped to think what could be the hidden benefits of the ventilation above your seat on an airplane? Besides the general purpose of keeping you cold, what else could be its benefits to your health?

How surprised would you be if you found out that the ventilation above your seat has a significant impact on your health? Well, this air vent wards up unnecessary contract with certain microorganism floating the atmosphere which can actually make you sick.

A medical doctor and vice chair of emergency medicine who works at Lahey Medical Center-Peabody, who also is an expert on the spread of air travel infectious diseases, Dr. Mark Gendreau, spoke to travel and leisure magazine, explaining to them just how it works and how passengers can fully utilize their air conditioner. This discussion was very informative and educative, according to Dr. Gendreau he says “ventilation on airplanes has gotten a bad reputation, but it’s completely unfounded.”
Air VentOne of the reasons for why he gave the statement, Gendreau said, was that no real research had been carried out about the topic of airplane infectious disease until the last 15 years. His second reason is the negative thoughts people have about the airplane air conditioner and the effect it would have on them.

Therefore many passengers seemed to had always turn off the air vent above them. This act was revealed as being counterproductive in the attempt to prevent the spread of this disease. Traveling through plane is one of the easiest means of contracting these communicable diseases. Some passengers reported having certain illness a few days or weeks after traveling on an airplane.

According to Gendreau, he says “the flow pattern of air in an aircraft doesn’t necessarily work front to back or back to front. It’s actually compartmentalized into various sections on the aircraft.”

He also added, “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.” This is how the airplanes ventilation actually really works.

Each section which is called the temperature control zones takes in air from the distribution nozzle above your head on the plane and flows around the entire cabin. This air escapes from the plane through a small space found just beneath the window or directly opposite the bottom of your seat close to the window.

When this air is out of the plane it mixes with the air outside and then passes through a HEAP (high efficiency particulate air), this is to clear the dust and microbes from outside before coming back into the airplane. This filtration process goes through each zone on the plane for a time laps of 15-30 minutes in an hour, with about half the percentage of air inside the plane re-circulating and the remaining half coming in from outside, the number of this air vent aren’t the same with every plane, some planes have more numbers of it while some have less of it, Gendreau explained.

Dr. Gendreau further explains that the system was built back when smoking was normally accepted on board during flights. Smoking in an airplane is unhygienic and had its negative impact on some passengers then, so airlines had to plan and build a good reliable air filtration system that could channel and redistribute the air within the cabins.

The HEPA filter removes more than 99 percent of the dust and microbes, leaving a more conducive and bearable atmosphere, says Gendreau, Keeping in mind that passengers will still need their own personal air vent for personal reasons.

“For airborne viruses, it is incredibly important to ventilate, since ventilation becomes your main means of control besides isolating the affected person,” says Gendreau.
Airborne virus can be easily contracted if not prevented, he added. Viruses such as tuberculosis and measles can be transmitted by very micro droplet nuclei that can suspend in the air for about five hours, Gendreau also said.

At the same time some of these viruses tend to remain present in the air although gradually falling, these are viruses associated with cold and the upper respiratory track, which are heavier and large in size, they tend to fall quicker. These particles linger but can be forced down with the aid of your air vent, thereby keeping you safer.

Protectively by using this vent and regulating its intensity to about low or medium, you will naturally create a barrier around you, protecting you from contracting this virus. This air vent creates turbulence forcing this virus to the ground rather faster.

Dr. Gendreau adds his view on how he uses the air vent, he says, “Then position it so you can draw an imaginary line of current right in front of your head. I put my hands on my lap so I can feel the current – so I know it’s probably positioned.”

Airplanes have low humidity, therefore each cabin in the plane is very dry, and this means your mucous membrane tends to dry up faster than normal, giving more reasons why passengers are liable to contacting this virus. It is important you keep away from these viruses by turning the air vent on.

Common cold particles can travel six feet high whenever you cough, sneeze or talk, it is important to keep your hands clean and avoid touching things unnecessarily around you. Some places to also watch out for while preventing the contract of these diseases would be the aisle, the toilets, your chair and and the table tray.

The risk of contracting viruses inside an airplane is normally higher, this can be when flight is being delayed and still on the ground with the air vent turned off.

“Some of the best-known instances have occurred on the ground – such as a large flu outbreak following a prolonged delay on the ground – with ventilation systems switched off,” said Dr. Richard Dawood, Telegraph Travel’s health expert.