With the arrival of cold and flu season, many people start taking extra precautions to avoid getting sick. From getting a flu shot to using hand sanitizer while you’re out and about, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce your risk of illness.
As it turns out, how you care for your CPAP machine can also affect how likely you are to get sick. If you don’t properly care for your device, it could increase your risk of illness. On the other hand, using your CPAP machine like you should will help you sleep well and stay healthy this winter.
Here’s what you should know.
How a CPAP Machine Could Make You Sick
In general, you shouldn’t have to worry about getting sick from using your CPAP machine. However, if you don’t replace used water from the humidifier water chamber or clean your CPAP components, you run the risk of getting sick.
This is because when you use your humidifier, the moist air that is carried through the tubing and mask can leave behind water residue. The warm, humid environment is the ideal breeding ground for germs and bacteria. The same is true of the humidifier water chamber if the water isn’t changed out.
Germ and bacteria buildup becomes increasingly likely the older your equipment gets — especially if you keep using it past its recommended replacement date. Tiny cracks and pitting can make it harder to clean the mask or the water chamber, while also creating an area where bacteria can get trapped and grow more easily.
When this bacterial growth occurs, using your CPAP machine would cause the pressurized air to carry the bacteria directly to your breathing passages, making you more likely to develop an upper respiratory infection. These infections are typically similar in severity to a seasonal cold. Common symptoms include cough, runny nose, and sore throat.
However, in some cases, a respiratory infection could develop into something more serious, with symptoms like high fever, muscle aches, or shortness of breath. Symptoms such as chest pain and a cough or high fever that don’t get better after a few days require a call to your doctor.
Staying Healthy While Using Your CPAP Machine
Fortunately, preventing CPAP-related respiratory infections is quite simple. It ultimately comes down to two factors: cleaning equipment regularly, and replacing it when needed.
Each day, CPAP users should clean the mask, tubing, and water chamber. This can be done with warm water and mild dish soap. Wash each part, then rinse with clean water and allow them to air dry. Hang the tubing over a towel rack with both ends facing toward the ground so any trapped water can drain out. Once per week, sanitize these parts in a mixture of water and vinegar. If you have a detachable water chamber, you may be able to wash it in the dishwasher if manufacturer guidelines allow you to do so.
In addition to these daily and weekly cleaning guidelines, you should replace all water in the humidifier water chamber after each use of your CPAP machine. You should also use distilled water. This will greatly lower the risk of contamination.
When it comes to replacing equipment, carefully follow manufacturer guidelines. Corrosion of older parts makes them harder to clean, so they are more likely to trap bacteria. They are also more prone to air leaks. For example, CPAP masks are usually replaced after three months of use. The tubing and water chamber are typically replaced every six months.
What If I Get Sick?
Of course, there are still plenty of ways you could get sick, even if you are caring for your CPAP machine properly. If you get sick, you might wonder if it is still safe to use your CPAP machine, or if it could worsen your condition or cause you to get sick again later.
One thing to keep in mind is that rest is one of the most important factors in helping your body recover from illness. Using your CPAP machine helps prevent sleep interruptions, which can make you more vulnerable to illness in the first place. A full night of sleep will help you recover faster.
That being said, you should be extra diligent in cleaning your CPAP equipment when using it while sick. Consistent cleaning and sanitation will keep bacteria from getting trapped in a way that it could cause recurring illness.
If using your CPAP machine becomes uncomfortable while you are sick, or if you have any other concerns, contact your healthcare provider. They will offer personalized guidance on what you should do to stay healthy.
Stay Healthy This Winter!
Following cleaning guidelines for your CPAP machine doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get sick this winter. After all, there’s no telling when your kids might come home from school with the flu! But by caring for your CPAP equipment as recommended, you can enjoy quality sleep and remain compliant with sleep apnea therapy.
Of course, part of this requires replacing worn components (and even the CPAP machine) at the intervals recommended by the manufacturer. If you don’t have quality insurance coverage, this can get expensive quickly — but this is where Help Medical Supplies comes in.
With a wide range of CPAP supplies, many available at major discounts off of MSRP, you can save money as you purchase needed replacement parts. With free shipping on orders of $89 and up, as well as available financing, your equipment purchases can be even more affordable so you can continue to enjoy quality sleep apnea treatment.