Sleep apnea and travel: How to travel with your CPAP device?

Published Jul 30, 2021 • By Aurélien De Biagi

Sleep apnea is responsible for snoring, cardiovascular problems, intense fatigue and daytime sleepiness that can lead to potentially fatal accidents. The main risk factor for this syndrome is age, although other factors such as gender and weight also play a role in its development.

In addition to diet and lifestyle changes, sleep apnea is also treated with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). CPAP is made possible thanks to a relatively cumbersome device, especially when you need to travel.

How can you ensure that you get a good night's sleep while on the road? How to best travel with a CPAP device?

We share our tips in the article below!

Sleep apnea and travel: How to travel with your CPAP device?

What is sleep apnea? 

Sleep apnea is sleep disorder characterized by a partial or complete obstruction of the airways at the back of the throat. These obstructions appear for about 10 to 30 seconds, at least 5 times per hour, causing micro-awakenings (to be able to breathe) of which the patient is not aware. As a result, sleep quality is impacted, and the patient may experience difficulty concentrating, memory problems and daytime sleepiness. These symptoms lead to a decrease in overall attention and an increased risk of accidents, some of which can be fatal (car accidents, for example). 

However, the complications caused by sleep apnea do not stop there. Indeed, it can also cause of cardiovascular disorders (high blood pressure, arrhythmia, heart failure, etc.). Due to the lack of oxygen entering through the respiratory tract, the heart workload increases in order to mobilize the available O2 reserves. The heart becomes exhausted and cardiovascular problems may arise. Sleep apnea is also associated with other conditions such as diabetes, dyslipidemia (hypercholesterolemia, triglyceridemia, etc.), metabolic syndrome, among others. 

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can be caused and aggravated by excess weight and obesity. Moreover, it can intensify with age. As we age, the upper airways lose their flexibility and thus become more sensitive to "collapse" causing the obstruction of the airways.

Traveling with a CPAP device

Sleep apnea is often treated with CPAP. The operating principle is simple: the device continuously sends pressurized air into the upper airways, preventing their obstruction.

When traveling, it is important to be able to take your CPAP device with you. Here are some tips and information that may be helpful while on vacation: 

Air travel with CPAP

If you'll be traveling by air, it is recommended to not check your CPAP machine as baggage, as it may become damaged, lost, or stolen during transit. If you must, place it in one of the bags you plan on checking and make sure it is well protected by the clothes in your bag.

If you'd prefer to have your CPAP with you, you can carry your CPCP device into the cabin at no extra cost. CPAP machines are considered medical devices and are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act and do not count as a carry-on item.

Taking your CPAP through airport security

If you do bring your CPAP machine with you onto the plane, consider bringing a plastic bag. Your CPAP may need to be X-rayed when you pass through security. It is important that your CPAP is kept as clean as possible at all times, so instead of removing it from its carrying case and placing it directly into an X-ray bin that may be unsanitary, it is a good idea to bring a clear plastic bag to protect it as it is screened.

When you reach the conveyer belt at security, make sure to let TSA agents know that you have a CPAP device. Agents are generally familiar with CPAP devices, but it is still a good idea to make them aware that you have a machine with you to expedite the security process.

Your CPAP may also need to be swabbed by a TSA agent for explosive residue as X-ray scanners can't always get a clear image of the device. If this occurs, you can ask the agent to use a fresh pair of gloves and a new swab.

It may also be a good idea to bring a copy of your prescription for your CPAP from your doctor in case TSA agents need further confirmation for your device. 

Using your CPAP on the plane

If you're planning on using your CPAP while in flight, make sure to check with your airline for their CPAP policy. Some airlines require minimum 48 hours of notice before using CPAP on the plane in order to verify that your device model meets FAA standards and regulations. Some aircraft models may also not have power options available, so you can also check to see if you need to bring extra plug adapters, cables, or even a battery pack.

For more information about FAA standards and regulations for CPAP machines, visit the FAA FAQ here.

If you'll be using your CPAP on the plane, make sure to bring distilled water to fill your device. Normally, distilled water is considered medically necessary, so the 3-1-1 rule on liquids (3.4 ounces, 1 clear quart-sized bag per 1 person) does not apply and you should be able to carry more with you. Make sure to inform agents of your medically necessary liquids at security. If for some reason you cannot bring your own water, bottled water should be used over tap water from the airport restroom or the lavatory on the plane.

Other tips for using your CPAP while away from home

  • Replacement parts: A few weeks before you go, you may want to make sure that all parts are in good condition and do not need to be replaced. If this is the case, contact your equipment provider who can send you new parts.
  • Extra parts: Additionally, depending on the length of your trip, it may be helpful to bring an extra supply of essential components of your device, such as your filters, mask, and tubing.
  • Some devices today are also battery operated, which can be useful when traveling by plane, camping, etc. Ask your doctor or equipment provider if they can recommend a travel and/or battery-operated model for you.
  • Power adapters: Today's CPAP machines have an internal voltage converter, but an outlet adapter may be necessary, especially if you are traveling abroad.
  • Extension cord: It may also be helpful to bring an extension cord with you - depending on where you are staying, outlets may not be located near the bed.
  • Cleaning supplies: Even when spending time outside or camping, it is important to make sure that your CPAP stays clean. Make sure to bring enough cleaning supplies (wipes, soap, etc.) to last your trip.
  • Finally, contact your equipment provider: If you have any doubts or questions about your CPAP device, you can always contact your provider. Your equipment provider is well aware of the regulations and will be able to guide you in the care and management of your device while you are traveling. 

Wherever you are you deserve to have a good night's sleep, so don't hesitate to take your device even for one night! 

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Take care! 


1 comment

on 8/2/21

very informative article

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