When using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to treat sleep apnea, you might find yourself asking if CPAP therapy can lead to infections or other health problems. With CPAP therapy, the individual wears a mask that provides continuous air pressure while sleeping to help their airways open. As a result, the sleep apnea patients’ airways don’t collapse, allowing them to get a sound night’s sleep. But with the machine consistently blowing air through your lungs, it can leave you questioning its overall cleanliness.
While the CPAP machine itself is a sterile breathing device, it becomes exposed to germs once it’s put to use. Because the machine is attached to your mouth or nose, germs can build up within the mask, tubing, and device. Rarely, the buildup of bacteria can lead to nasal infections or similar illnesses.
The bacteria from the mask can also cause skin infections if left untreated. However, there isn’t much conclusive research on the connection between CPAP machines and infections. But with the proper precautions and cleaning regime in place, you can significantly reduce your chances of getting sick when treating your obstructive sleep apnea.
How to Avoid Infections with a CPAP Machine
Infections are caused by exposing yourself to a buildup of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and molds — and when these are in your CPAP machine, they are being circulated through your body. You can take a few steps to help reduce your exposure to these harmful substances, thus reducing the risk of infection.
Clean Your CPAP Equipment Regularly
If you have sleep apnea, you’re probably using your CPAP machine every night. Most CPAP manufacturers recommend cleaning your device each day with hot water and soap to kill any bacteria the device may have been exposed to throughout the night. However, daily cleanings aren’t always practical. At a minimum, you should be cleaning your CPAP device weekly to reduce the risk of infection and illness.
Clean Daily When Sick
While you might get away cleaning your CPAP equipment weekly, you should switch to daily cleanings if you are sick. When you have a cold or--something more serious like pneumonia-- your mask, tubing, and device become exposed to infectious germs. Removing this bacteria from the device will prevent it from prolonging your illness or causing mold and fungi to grow within the machine.
Prevent Moisture Buildup
Bacteria thrive in warm and wet environments. If you notice moisture within your device’s tubing taking a long time to dissipate, you need to clean out the tubing until it’s completely dry. If you cannot reach and wipe out the tubes yourself, try using a heated humidifier to help minimize the amount of condensation.
Replace Equipment As Recommended
When was the last time you replaced the mask of your CPAP machine? What about the filter? Read through the manufacturer’s guidelines for your specific breathing equipment model to find out the correct timeframes for replacing various parts of your CPAP machine. Following these guidelines will help to minimize the spread of bacteria in the device.
Never Share Your CPAP Machine
To prevent the spread of germs and contamination, you should never allow anyone else to use your continuous positive airway pressure machine. Additionally, you should always purchase a new device rather than opting for a used one — especially when it comes to the mask and tubing equipment.
Following these guidelines will help you to reduce the chance of infection and illness when using your CPAP machine so you can have peace of mind knowing you’ll be breathing a bit easier.