Using a CPAP and wearing a mask on your face can be difficult even when you’re feeling 100%. When not feeling well, compliance can be a problem for even the best of us. Wearing your CPAP when sick is even more important because your body is relying heavily on sleep to get better. Here are a few things I’ve learned or discovered that can help me stay compliant.
The thought of using a neti pot or similar product seemed awful and disgusting. I even avoided using one for about 18 months even though my doctor insisted and provided me with multiple samples. Once I finally found some courage to do it, I was shocked at the benefits – and all the snot that came out.
I use the NeilMed Sinus Rinse bottles. It’s a squeeze bottle which allows me to control the pressure when I’m clearing out my sinuses. It’s a good idea to use filtered or distilled water. I get my water from a Brita filter I keep in the refrigerator, so I usually microwave the bottle with the cold water for 30-40 seconds so I don’t experience brain freeze.
I think the packaging suggests one rinse a day. My doctors have instructed me to rinse twice a day, especially during allergy seasons which last March to November for me. I often have a period of “good sinuses” and forget to keep rinsing, only to go to a regularly scheduled doc appoint and be told I need to get back on track. It’s especially important when I’m sick.
Don’t let your sinuses dry out
Humidify your CPAP – There are several ways to assist this problem. I use a heated humidifier with my CPAP. Once I used it without in a dry, dusty hotel room. My sinuses were so messed up I had major nose bleeds eventually resulting in me shoving a tampon up my nose. Yeah, I realize that probably sounds odd, but the cheap, singly-ply toilet paper in the room seemed to dry my nose out even more and wasn’t really absorbent.
If you experience rain-out, too much water in your mask, try adjusting your humidifier setting to something a little lower. You might also inquire about a heated hose with your CPAP supplies provider.
Drink more water – Drinking water can also be a big help. I try to drink a gallon of water a day. It doesn’t always do the trick, but it helps with a lot of things.
Moisturize your sinuses – An allergy doctor suggested I get saline in a spray bottle for my sinuses, or try out Ayr sinus gel. It was helpful, but seemed not to have any long-lasting effects. It reminded me of cough drops or chapstick – once you start, it’s hard to stop. Another doctor suggested I try Ponaris Nasal Emolient. The packaging boasts astronauts use the stuff. It comes with a dropper and has a medicinal smell like tea tree oil. One drop of this in each nostril keeps my sinuses in good shape most of the day, if not the entire day.
Application can be a bit tricky dropping liquid up your nose. I usually lie down on my bed and tip my head back. Be careful not to squeeze too hard on the dropper or you’ll put way too much in your nose and it’ll all run down the back of your throat. After putting the drops in, I often squeeze my nose a bit to move the emollient around. If a little bit starts to run out your nose, some simple dabbing with a tissue will take care of it.
Try changing your mask
Earlier this year I was having trouble keeping my oxygen levels up, and the easiest way to feel better was to stay at home with my CPAP on. The problem I experienced was sores developing on my face from being in contact with my mask 18 hours or more a day. I started folding up a piece of toilet paper to act as a buffer between my mask and face. That helped, but it wasn’t a long-term solution. I eventually had a chat with my CPAP provider and got a different style of mask. Now I alternate masks every day to help prevent this issue. Different mask types might also help you in using your CPAP while sick. If you mask is only attached to your nose, a nasal pillow or cushion, you might try a full-face mask. Many like them because you can breathe through your mouth or nose.
Clean your CPAP
Probably the easiest thing to do is make sure your CPAP, and its replaceable parts, are clean and replaced on schedule. Leaving a dirty filter in your machine won’t help you at all if you have allergies. You should also be rinsing your mask parts out, and emptying your humidifier reservoir daily, and washing them with warm water and soap weekly.
Towards the beginning of this year I decided to invest the money in a SoClean 2 unit. Each morning, after I wake up, I simply place my mask, with hose attached, into the cleaner. The machine runs on a timer, similar to a programmable thermostat, and starts up when I want it to. The cleaner runs for about 7 minutes and then needs two hours before you use your CPAP again. It even sanitizes your humidifier reservoir allowing you to keep whatever water you had from the previous night. The cleaning unit costs around $300, which I admit is expensive, but the peace of mind and ease of keeping my CPAP clean is worth it for me.
Have I left anything out? What do you do that helps? I’m always interested in learning what others have done and what helps. I didn’t mention this above, but you should always check with your doctor or CPAP provider if you’re having any trouble with your equipment or usage. If one or both of these are unresponsive or not helpful, consider finding a new one if possible. I’ve sacked several doctors and durable medical equipment providers over the years for not providing the level of service I need.