On Your Health

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Traveling with Your CPAP Machine

Sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, are a common health issue in the United States with an estimated 25 million Americans suffering from sleep apnea. 

For those who use a CPAP machine to help treat the discomfort of this sleep disorder, making travel plans with sleep apnea can be a chore. Luckily, with some advanced planning, it doesn’t have to be.

If you’re planning a spring and summer vacation or traveling for business, getting quality sleep away from home is important. To get your best sleep while on vacation, check out the following tips for traveling with a CPAP.

Get a doctor’s note for your portable machine

The first step is to have the right equipment. If you haven’t already, ask your doctor to give you a prescription for a CPAP machine and all the items that are required to go with it, like filters and tubing.

It doesn’t hurt to have a letter or email on file from your doctor about the need for your CPAP or portable CPAP, especially when going through security at airports and other transportation hubs. A simple paragraph explaining that you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea and have been prescribed the equipment, signed by your doctor, should do the trick.

Pack your CPAP machine correctly

Your CPAP machine is an investment in our health, so packing it correctly will keep it safe and clean. Make sure your carrying case is in good shape, and pack an extension cord to make sure you can reach outlets in whatever hotel, cottage or vacation rental you have.

If you are traveling out of the country, be sure to research what type of electrical outlets the country has. If it’s different from the American outlets, you can buy converters online to plug your machine into.

Adapter plugs are available at many CPAP supply sites and are designed to adapt your standard AC plug into one that fits into foreign wall sockets. These are specially designed for dual voltage electronics or other voltage converters that accept polarized plugs.

It’s also a good idea to pack an extra mask cushion, filter and even tubing. These items can be damaged or lost during travel. Luckily, these extra items don’t take up much space, and it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

Getting through security

Depending on the current threat levels, rules can change at any moment at security checkpoints at airports and other hubs. Generally speaking, the travel industry is knowledgeable about CPAP machines.

If you’re going through security at an airport, you’ll have to put your CPAP and humidifier in a plastic tub to go through security screenings. Always alert the security screener you have a CPAP, as this will make the process go much faster.

The tubes and mask can be kept inside your carryon luggage case and won’t need to be inspected separately, so keeping them in your luggage keeps them clean, sanitary and safe from handling by others.

Do not keep your CPAP machine in your checked baggage. You never want to run the risk of not having your luggage with your medical device. Just in case your travel plans are delayed, or your luggage gets lost or damaged — always carry on your CPAP supplies.

Hotel tips

Where to keep your portable CPAP or CPAP machine in a hotel is as easy as making room for it. If the nightstand by the bed is cluttered with items like phones or lamps, simply pull out the top drawer of the nightstand and put your CPAP there. Many hotels come with portable trays too, so those could also be an option.

If you are worried about the quality of the water in the hotel, simply buy bottled water at your destination. 

Using your CPAP during transportation

Some flights or train rides require an overnight leg, so ask the airline or train company in advance what their requirements are when it comes to using your CPAP while traveling. Many forms of transportation do not have electrical outlets, so you might plan to bring your own battery-operated unit.

Cleaning your CPAP

Bottled or distilled water is your best bet for cleaning your CPAP when away from home because regular tap water can cause minerals will build up in the water chamber. That being said, a few days or even weeks of cleaning your CPAP with tap water won’t harm it too badly, especially if you clean and replace the water chamber and tubing regularly. 

You can normally find distilled water locally at most destinations, but if you’re worried, you can always pack a few bottles in your checked bag.

CPAP pillows

Sleeping in hotels or in strange surroundings may be challenging, and you never know just how comfortable your vacation bed will be. Pillows can be overstuffed and less comfortable, which aren’t the best for CPAP users.

CPAP bed pillows and CPAP supplies are available on the market and they easily fit into a checked bag or the CPAP carry case. 

Traveling with a CPAP machine doesn't have to be difficult if you prepare ahead of time. Never hesitate to ask your health provider for tips about CPAP compliance and use it when you hit the road. 

Learn more about the conditions we treat and therapies, diagnostic tools and procedures available at INTEGRIS Sleep Medicine Clinic. For more information about CPAP machines, read our basics of breathing machines blog post on the On Your Health blog section.

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