With colds, the flu, and COVID-19 floating around, the side effects of each illness can prevent you from getting a good night of sleep. Especially if you’re wearing a CPAP mask. Although CPAP does a great job of managing sleep apnea, it’s not the best treatment to use while you’re sick. If you’re coughing and dealing with a drippy nose, the last thing you want to do is block your face from being able to blow your nose or get a drink of water. Let’s explore if CPAP is the best choice to use when you’re sick.

Using CPAP When You’re Sick

man wrapped in a blanket with a cold, blowing his noseIf you’re suffering from an illness that impedes your ability to breathe, CPAP, in short, can’t work effectively. CPAP is supposed to prevent your airway obstruction by delivering a constant stream of pressurized air. When your nose is stuffy or congested it can make it difficult to breathe if you wear a nasal mask.

On the flip side, if your nose is runny, the mucus can contaminate your mask. If you don’t clean everything effectively, there is a risk for secondary infection to occur.

If you’re suffering from a sore throat, the constant air can irritate your throat even more which can lead to coughing fits. Every time you cough, the incoming air may feel even more uncomfortable.

It might also be beneficial to take a break from CPAP if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Nosebleeds
  • Ear pain/pressure
  • Persistent nasal congestion
  • Coughing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat

If you’re suffering from any of these symptoms, there’s a good chance you won’t feel comfortable while wearing your CPAP when you’re sick.

Taking a Break From CPAP

If you have a stuffy or runny nose and wearing your CPAP is too uncomfortable, it’s okay to take a break for a few nights. However, taking an extended break can lead to a rise in sleep apnea symptoms and start increasing health risks. If your symptoms are only minor, consider continuing your CPAP use. Sometimes, CPAP can help relieve congestion because it’s pressure can open the nasal passages and clear mucus. You would then swallow any remaining residue while you sleep.

How To Modify CPAP When You’re Sick

You can still use CPAP comfortably when you’re sick if you make a few modifications. Try these modifications out before you write off using your CPAP altogether. You might even incorporate these tips even when you’re not sick.

  • Saline Spray – You can get saline spray from your local drugstore for an inexpensive way to moisten the inside of your nose. You can also rinse your sinuses using a neti pot.
  • Cold and Flu Medicine – Taking medicine to relieve your cold and flu symptoms is also another helpful option. Make sure to choose a medication that addresses your specific symptoms. For instance, taking Mucinex can help loosen and clear excess mucus, cough syrup will help you stop coughing, and etc. Taking medication will help relieve your symptoms so you can get a good night of sleep.
  • Nasal Decongestants – If you’re feeling congested, consider using a nasal decongestant spray like Afrin or Flonase or another prescription.
  • Heated Humidifier and Tubing – You should use the CPAPs humidifier when you’re congested or have a cold. It will help reduce inflammation and irritation in your airway. Additionally, if you use heated tubing, it can help reduce bacterial colonization in the tubing which will reduce your duration and risk of infections.
  • Full-Face Mask – If you usually only use a nasal mask, a full face mask can help you still enjoy the benefits of CPAP, even when your nose is stuffed. You can always switch back to your nasal mask once your symptoms improve.
  • Sleep In a Different Position – You can also try sleeping on your side or your stomach or raise your head at night to decongest and sleep better.
  • Pressure Changes – Increasing the pressure on your CPAP might also help you breathe better when you’re congested.

Consider CPAP Alternatives

Another way to ensure you treat your sleep apnea when you’re sick is by switching to a CPAP alternative treatment. At Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center, our sleep dentist in Omaha, NE offers a wide range of oral appliances. Oral appliances treat sleep apnea just like CPAP, however, it doesn’t involve wearing a mask or experiencing air being forced into your airway. Instead, it rests comfortably in your mouth similar to a mouth guard and works by preventing your airway from collapsing.

Oral appliances work perfectly when you’re sick because they still hold your airway open without irritating your airway further. You might find it more comfortable to wear even when you’re not sick too.

If you’re interested in exploring this CPAP alternative treatment for cold and flu season, or for life in general, please schedule a new patient consultation by calling (402) 493-4175 today.