Here’s Why You Should Keep the Overhead Vent Running on Your Next Flight

Between the turbulence and minimal legroom, the recycled air wafting through your airplane cabin doesn't make flying a pleasant experience. Adding insult to the premise are studies that suggest airplane cabin air is often crawling with toxins. This presents a problem for people onboard the more than 16 million flights traversing the United States every year. But don't despair, because there's a quite simple way to help reduce the likelihood of contracting an airborne virus on a flight. All you have to do is leave the overhead vent running.

Turns out the extra air flow may decrease your chances of contracting a virus. Mark Gendreau, an infectious disease specialist at the Lahey Medical Center in Peabody, Massachusetts, told Travel + Leisure: "For airborne viruses, it is incredibly important to ventilate, since ventilation becomes your main means of control besides isolating the affected person." Since most planes use filtration systems that recycle 50% of the air onboard an aircraft, it's important to utilize your vent. This ebbs with numerous studies which suggest drier, colder environments are less prone to causing sinus infections and stuffy noses.

On the other side, aircraft ventilation systems should nullify 99% of toxic microbes from the plane's jet engines. Still, if you're sitting next to a person who's coughing or sneezing, you might be in jeopardy, because the oxygen flow on airplanes is compartmentalized. "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," Gendreau says, but leaving your vent on could create a sort of buffer zone to ward off whatever viruses might be floating around your immediate area.

Yes, the air is cold, which might prompt a shiver or two, so it might be smart to ask for a blanket. After all, the frigid air is meant for your safety as well.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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Sam Blum is a News Staff Writer for Thrillist. He's also a martial arts and music nerd who appreciates a fine sandwich and cute dogs. Find his clips in The Guardian, Rolling Stone, The A.V. Club and Esquire. He's on Twitter @Blumnessmonster.