Using CPAP with a cold: continue or take a brake?

Last Updated on March 30, 2021

Respiratory viral infections are in most cases relatively harmless illnesses. But the symptoms can make anyone feel really disgusted. As long as you have a runny or stuffy nose, it’s hard to get a good night’s sleep. And for those who are on CPAP therapy for apnea, the cold doesn’t just make you feel uncomfortable, it makes you question yourself.

  • Does it make sense to use CPAP during an acute respiratory infection or the flu?
  • Would it cause a positive pressure airway to aggravate a sore, scratchy, or irritated throat?
  • How can I make CPAP therapy for a runny nose more acceptable and effective?

Should you use CPAP when you have a Cold?

The first thing to do when you have a cold is to see your doctor and start taking medication prescribed by him. If the flu treatment is started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, you will have a good chance of a speedy recovery. In this case, even if you take a short pause in the CPAP therapy, nothing bad will happen. But interrupting the treatment of complicated snoring for more than a couple of days is not worth it.

First, without creating positive airway pressure, the apnea episodes will return again and continue their devastating effect on all body systems.

Secondly, you won’t be able to rest properly because of the breathing stops. But sleep is an important prerequisite for a speedy recovery. When we sleep, the immune system produces a special group of proteins – cytokines. Some of them have an anti-inflammatory function. When we don’t get enough sleep, cytokine production decreases, and it becomes more difficult to fight infection. At the same time, the disease increases the need for rest. While a healthy person needs 7-8 hours to recover, a sick person may sleep as long as 10 hours. True, you can stay in bed all day long without a CPAP machine, but you still won’t get enough sleep, which means it won’t do you any good.

How to use CPAP with a Cold?

If a respiratory infection causes you to take a break from CPAP therapy, try to sleep on your side or have your head elevated during this time.

When you sleep on your back, the soft structures of the airway collapse more due to their own gravity, and this increases the frequency of apnea episodes due to obstruction at the pharyngeal level during sleep. In addition, in this position, mucus does not drain, but stagnates in the sinuses, which aggravates the disease.

Position therapy offers different ways to maintain the sleeping position on your side, from special pillows to sewing a tennis ball into your nightgown. If this is too uncomfortable for you, use extra bolsters to raise your head and allow mucus to drain from your sinuses.

If you are determined to continue CPAP therapy even with an acute respiratory infection or the flu, the following tips are helpful.

Get a Heated Humidifier

When you inhale cold air, the blood vessels in your nostrils dilate to warm it up. But as the blood supply to your nose increases, the swelling of the mucosa worsens, further narrowing the airways. As a result, there is more mucus, and nasal congestion increases.

A heated humidifier helps to solve the problem. Warm moist air relieves the nose, helps restore the moisture level of the mucous membranes of the sinuses and respiratory tract. In addition, it has a beneficial effect on an irritated and inflamed throat, as well as eliminating the unpleasant sensation of dryness in the nose, which often occurs when using nasal sprays for a runny nose.

A heated humidifier is not only useful for colds. This device increases your comfort level during CPAP therapy. Especially if you suffer from vasomotor or allergic rhinitis and constantly have a dry nose and throat.

Relieve nasal mucus swelling with nasal drops or sprays

Purchase nasal decongestant drops or sprays from your pharmacy. This will allow you to inhale the air blown into the mask, i.e. maintain the effectiveness of the CPAP therapy as much as possible. It is also advisable to flush your nose with saline or seawater before going to bed to clear the nasal passages of mucus.

Replace the nasal mask or cannulas with an oronasal model

When treating apnea-induced snoring, patients most often use nasal masks and cannulas. However, they require that you only breathe in through your nose. But with a cold, this is not always possible, as you will still breathe through your mouth due to a runny or stuffy nose.

Try temporarily using a full-face mask. You may not find it too comfortable. But for the duration of a cold, it’s the perfect solution to eliminate episodes of apnea and avoid air leakage through your mouth. And when you recover, you can go back to the familiar nasal model.

Care of the CPAP mask during Illness

If a CPAP machine is used during a cold, extra attention must be paid to the hygiene of the equipment. Nasal secretions contaminate the mask and especially the nasal pillows. From the mask, germs and viruses enter the tube and from there into the humidifier reservoir. The warm and humid environment is ideal for pathogens to multiply. And by using an “infected” device, you increase the risk of reinfection.

  • Wash the mask daily and the tube 2-3 times a week. To do this, make a soapy solution, immerse the accessories in it for 15-20 minutes, then rinse with running water and dry.
  • Clean and wash the humidifier tank 1-2 times a week.
  • Wipe the outside of the unit with a disinfectant or use a special cpap cleaner machine for your equipment.

These simple steps will reduce the risk of further spread of the infection.

You should not interrupt your apnea treatment for too long. Although colds make it difficult to use CPAP equipment, if you follow our advice, you will be able to cope with this problem as well.

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