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Tips on Travelling with Your CPAP Machine

Posted On December 17, 2013
December 17, 2013

It is a human trait. People come up with all kinds of excuses when it comes to why they don’t do the things that are good for them, such as exercising, eating healthy, and throwing out their cigarettes. Yes, despite the fact that the above practices will make you feel better and improve your overall wellness, we avoid. Why? Plain and simple, it is difficult. We like to take the easy way out.

The same can be said for people who use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to treat their obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This condition is defined as the unconscious stoppage of breathing for short periods of time throughout a night’s sleep. There is a whole host of reasons why CPAP users are not complaint with their treatment, least of which is the excuse of issues and problems travelling with their machine. Nevertheless, there are tips that CPAP patients can follow to make travel with their machine a positive instead of a negative.

Packing for your trip

Even if you will be only travelling overnight, it is important to bring your CPAP machine with you. Think about it: to get a good night’s sleep without feeling fatigued the next day, you need your CPAP machine. If you don’t bring it, you’ll be that much more miserable on your trip. You won’t enjoy your getaway and your family certainly won’t enjoy your irritability due to tiredness.

Here are some easy steps to get you ready for traveling with your CPAP machine:

  • Get out your CPAP travel bag.
  • Unplug the cord and detach the humidifier.
  • Empty all water from the reservoir and allow to dry.
  • Make sure that along with your machine, you pack any additional supplies such as extension cord, back-up battery and any adaptors (including one if you are travelling overseas).

By plane

Thankfully it is far easier than in years past to travel by plane due to changes by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Back in 2009, the FAA ruled that people who needed to use a respiratory apparatus, like a CPAP machine, were allowed to do so. Here are some tips to make your life less stressful at the airport:

  • Always carry onto the plane your CPAP machine, never check it. You are allowed an additional carry-on item under the Americans with Disability Act.
  • When going through security, alert the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent that you have a CPAP machine so that you can remove it from the bag and in turn be separately scanned. It is always a good idea to wrap your CPAP machine in a clear bag so that your CPAP avoids germs and any possible contamination when it is scanned. In addition, if the agent needs to examine your CPAP, it is your right to ask him or her to put on new gloves.
  • Place an identification tag onto the CPAP-carrying bag that states that the contents are medical equipment.
  • If your flight is lengthy, a red-eye or you want to take a nap, make sure that when you get to your seat you check out if there’s an outlet. Another tip is to find out before your flight whether or not you might need an adaptor. Most airlines actually do not have power sources available so you will need your back-up battery supply.
  • People often forget about water with regard to their CPAP machine function. If you plan on using your CPAP in flight, make sure you have distilled water with you (unopened of course). Even better would be to have a prescribed 500 mL distilled water bottle from your doctor, or get a papFlask, which is security sanctioned. As a contingency plan, you can use bottled or tap water temporarily, but make sure that you change over to distilled water again as soon as possible. Continued use of water that isn’t distilled can cause damage to your CPAP machine due to the minerals routinely found in tap water.

You are allowed to use your CPAP machine in flight as it is considered a medical device. However, if you face an issue and need to lodge a complaint, you can do so by contacting the Department of Transportation by email at:

Off the beaten track

What if you are the outdoor-type person who also happens to treat your OSA with a CPAP machine, do you have to forego camping or backpacking? Rest assured, you can still enjoy roasting s’mores by the campfire and pitching your tent for the night. All you need to do is make sure that you have an ample battery supply for your CPAP machine. Same holds true if you enjoy boating and sailing. You can actually use a 12-volt deep cycle marine battery with a sine wave inverter. You do not have to miss out on any time spent out on the water with your family or catching that 10-lb flounder.

Additional hints

If plans include travelling to a different altitude, high or sea level, you might need to adjust your machine to account for the variation. Before you depart, check your machine’s manual to find out whether or not it will automatically adjust for the difference in altitude or you will have to manually make the change.

No matter what your mode of travel, it is always a good practice to have your CPAP model and serial number written down, a copy of your CPAP machine prescription, and latest sleep study on hand. Why? You will not lose a night sleep if your machine breaks down, is lost or stolen.

If you have sleep apnea and would like to learn more about other treatment options other than CPAP, we can help. Please contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 to schedule a free consultation.

About Phoebe Ochman

Phoebe Ochman, Director of Communications for Sleep Apnea Treatment Centers of America, manages all content and communications for the company.
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