August 20, 2014

Using CPAP During a Cold

Okay, you are using a CPAP machine and waking up rested. You have overcome your resistance to using the machine on a daily basis and are happy using it. Now, you are coming down with a head cold and are wondering what to do and think you should possibly take a break from using it until you are over the cold.

It is okay to take a break from using CPAP, if you have a cold. You may find that you have a residual benefit from the treatment, even several days into the break. This is because the inflammation and swelling of the tissues in the upper airway will take time to become affected again. See my blog from yesterday for possible breathing help using a CPAP.

When you have an upper respiratory infection, such as the common cold may make it more difficult to use CPAP. Similar to what occurs with allergies, the nose may become congested and runny. A stuffy nose may make it hard to breathe with the machine. The discharge of mucus may dirty the CPAP mask, especially if you use nasal pillows. The flow of air may also cause irritation if you have a sore throat. Each time you cough, opening the mouth may make the pressure uncomfortable.

If you do decide to continue using your CPAP during your cold, you may find it helpful to use a medication to alleviate a stuffy nose. Over-the-counter saline spray is inexpensive and effective. It can be used as often as you need it and will moisten the lining of the nose. Afrin spray may also provide relief, but it should not be used long term due to the risk for rebound congestion of the nose.

Other prescription medications may relieve chronic congestion related to allergies, including topical nasal steroids sprays such as Flonase, Nasonex, Patanase, and Astelin. It may also be helpful to rinse the nasal sinuses with a neti pot. If you have diabetes, be careful and only use prescription medications under the direction of a doctor, as many can raise blood glucose more than you want.

Some people actually like to use CPAP during a cold, especially if there is not a lot of nasal discharge. The heated and humidified air may add comfort and relief. This pressurized air may also move mucus along the nasal passage and decrease congestion. My CPAP has a heated humidifier and does help during a cold.

During and after your cold, it is important to be diligent about cleaning the CPAP mask, tubing, and humidifier tank. Give everything a thorough rinse with a mild soap and water.

Even if you want to take a break from CPAP when you have a cold, you don’t have to. If you find that you can tolerate the treatment during illness, it will help you to sleep better and wake feeling more rested. Except for one particularly bad cold, I have been quite comfortable using my CPAP machine and it has actually helped lessen the symptoms of my colds. You may need to experiment to find if this works for you.

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