A study of sleep apnea and pneumonia followed a total of 34,100 patients (6816 people with sleep apnea and 27,284 controls) from January 1, 2000, to December 31, 2010. Over the 11 years of the study, 8.09% of patients developed pneumonia, although the average follow-up time was only 4.5 years. The rate of pneumonia among people with sleep apnea was 9.36%, and 7.77% for controls. After adjusting for known risk factors associated with pneumonia, it was found that sleep apnea led to a 20% increase in pneumonia risk and that patients who were on CPAP therapy were even more likely to get pneumonia.

With COVID-19 also causing pneumonia, those using CPAP therapy might want to consider a different sleep apnea treatment to reduce their risk. Also, please note, you cannot use your CPAP as a respirator. It’s discouraged to use if you have CPAP because it releases your germs into the air more than breathing alone.

doctor checking patients lungs

Why Sleep Apnea Increases Pneumonia Risk

Pneumonia is a lung infection that can be disabling or deadly. It occurs when bacteria or a virus gets into your lungs, and your body is unable to fight off the infection. This results in swelling and fluid accumulation in the lungs that can make it difficult or impossible for you to breathe.

Sleep apnea increases your risk of infection because it makes it more likely that you will suck fluid from your throat into your lungs when struggling to breathe. The frequent sleep interruptions also impair your immune system.

Why CPAP Increases Pneumonia Risk

CPAP can increase your risk of pneumonia even further because it can blow bacteria and viruses into your lungs. This increases the risk that a simple upper respiratory tract infection (anything from the common cold to strep throat) will develop into pneumonia.

Researchers also noted that the CPAP machine and in particular a humidifier might serve as a source of bacteria that could result in pneumonia. They noted, “for patients receiving CPAP therapy, every effort should be made to minimize the risk of pneumonia, such as enhanced cleaning of CPAP tubing and humidifier, and vigilance if recurrent pneumonia is noted among CPAP users.”

CPAP Infection Symptoms

If you don’t clean your CPAP regularly, it can potentially lead to an infection of some sort. This is because the moisture sits inside the machine with nowhere to escape. The moisture can turn into a mold which you then breathe in at night. If you continuously keep getting sick with a cold and you use a CPAP machine, it might be from not cleaning it regularly. You may also get sick with bronchitis, pneumonia, or inflammation of your lungs. You will likely show CPAP infection symptoms like finding it difficult to breathe or severe coughing.

Is a Humidifier Good for Pneumonia?

Yes! If you want to know how to sleep with pneumonia and get a good night of sleep, a humidifier for pneumonia is a great idea. The humidifier can help eliminate dry air which overall reduces swelling, irritation and help the lungs clear out fluids on their own. Humidifiers also help with snoring.

CPAP Alternatives

For people who are having trouble with CPAP, alternatives do exist. Oral appliance therapy can help keep your airway open to control sleep apnea without the additional force that can drive infection into your lungs. Avoid CPAP pneumonia with the right oral appliance for your sleep condition. At the end of the day, the best sleep apnea treatment is the one you will actually use consistently. Otherwise, untreated sleep apnea poses serious health risks.

If you want to learn whether oral appliance therapy is right for you and say goodbye to CPAP for good, please call (402) 493-4175 to schedule an appointment at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center in Omaha.