Should I use my CPAP when I have a cold?

Ginger, lemon and orange tea in Winter

Last updated on November 3rd, 2022 at 12:16 pm

If you suffer from colds, nasal congestion or a stuffy nose, you may wonder if you should continue using your CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine. 

Sinus blockages can make breathing uncomfortable, making your CPAP therapy difficult. This article will offer simple solutions for using your Sleep Apnoea treatment when congested. 

CPAP and nasal congestion

A CPAP machine works to provide a continuous flow of pressurised air through to the CPAP mask. If you use a nasal pillow or nasal cushion mask and suffer from a stuffy, blocked or runny nose, it will prevent the therapy from working as you breathe from your mouth instead. Nasal congestion is a common CPAP machine side effect and can be easily solved with our tips.

Related page: 8 Common CPAP machine side effects

Should I use my CPAP when I have a cold?

Yes, if a sleep clinic or doctor has recommended CPAP therapy, do not stop using it.

It is always encouraged to continue using your CPAP machine to prevent your Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) from worsening. 

Pausing your therapy, even for a few nights, can hugely impact your health. Using CPAP prevents complications such as diabetesheart disease and atrial fibrillation.

If you pause your therapy, you will find symptoms also reoccurring, from snoring and memory loss to choking in your sleep.

Therefore, you should use your CPAP if you have a cold, congestion or suffer from an allergy. 

Cold and flu solutions for CPAP therapy

Here are some solutions to make using your CPAP machine more comfortable:

Nasal irrigation 

During CPAP, sinus and nasal care are essential to keep your nasal airways open. Sinusitis and congestion are easily solved by using a drug-free saline solution irrigator. 

SinuPulse nasal irrigator is a pulsating machine that removes chronic sinus blockages. If you are travelling with your CPAP, the SinuPulse traveller irrigator could be just what you need.

You could also try a manual spray irrigator to solve your congestion. The SinuAir salt power spray cleanses your cold and flu symptoms. 

Related page: Tips for travelling with Sleep Apnoea

Full-face mask

When suffering from a stuffy nose, we often automatically breathe through our mouth at night. 

Using a nasal mask successfully is almost impossible when suffering from a blocked nose. Side effects of using a nasal mask during a cold or flu include CPAP air leaks and a dry mouth.

Switching to a full-face mask allows you to breathe through your mouth comfortably. 

Newer full-face masks are designed with minimal contact and also support side sleeping. Here are a few you could try:

Once the symptoms of cold and flu have gone, you can go back to your nasal mask.  

Add a heated humidifier

For many CPAP machine users, the air pressure is too cold, drying their nasal passages and throat. Humidification is a proven solution for those struggling to become comfortable with their CPAP. Adding a humidifier will warm the air being delivered and therefore moisten your sinuses. 

A CPAP humidifier will ease inflamed nasal passages, preventing symptoms of a cold. 

Many machines have an integrated humidifier, like the Fisher and Paykel Auto CPAP Sleepstyle. However, many other CPAP machines have a device-specific humidifier option; for example, the Sefam S.Box Auto CPAP is only compatible with the Sefam S.Box Heated Humidifier.

Heated hose or CPAP hose fleece

A common side effect of a humidifier is ‘rainout‘ when a build-up of condensation (droplets of water) forms in your mask or tube. 

Adding a heated hose or a CPAP hose fleece prevents rainout and maximises comfort. These optional CPAP products provide the humidity that your nose can not when suffering from a cold.

Top Tip: Tuck your CPAP tube under the covers to keep it warm.

Please note – Most heated hose options are device-specific; for example, the ResMed AirSense 10 can only be used with the Resmed AirSense 10 ClimateLine Air Heated Tube. However, the Hybernite Universal Heated CPAP Tube is compatible with any CPAP machine.

Positional therapy 

To make breathing easier, consider changing your sleeping position. Sleeping on your side opens your airways and nasal passages, improving your breathing. 

Consider using a CPAP pillow if you use a bulky full-face mask. These are designed with cut-outs for your mask to sit in so you can sleep on your side. A CPAP pillow also reduces the risk of red marks and pressure marks from your mask.

To prevent becoming tangled in your CPAP tube when changing positions, you could use a hose lift.

Alternatively, keeping your head elevated during the night allows the mucus to drain and prevent a stuffy nose. 

CPAP pressure settings

Adjusting your humidifier settings can provide you with increased comfort. 

It is also wise your speak to your doctor or sleep clinic if you find your CPAP pressure settings uncomfortable. 

Related page: What are the numbers on my CPAP machine, and what do they mean?

Cleaning your CPAP equipment

Keeping your CPAP supplies clean is essential; it helps to prevent the growth of bacteria and the spread of viruses. 

When you’re ill, you’re more likely to be reinfected if you do not clean your CPAP mask, tubing or humidifier tub. 

It is advised to clean your mask daily to prevent future infections. Remember to empty your humidifier water every day and use distilled water.

The SoClean 2 CPAP sanitiser is an easy way to sanitise your equipment, killing 99.9% of bacteria. 

Unsanitised CPAP equipment can cause infections more severe than the common cold, such as bacterial pneumonia.

Related page: SoClean 2: All you need to know

Cold and flu medication

Over-the-counter medications may help ease your sinus congestion. Antihistamines, throat lozenges, or cough syrup could effectively help you recover. 

Or a simple lemon, honey and ginger tea can help open up your airways.

Intus advice

Although it can be difficult, you should always stick to using your CPAP machine during the Winter months. Your CPAP machine will help you feel better if you suffer from a cold, flu or sinusitis. 

If you think you have symptoms of Sleep Apnoea and have not yet been diagnosed – take a simple in-home sleep test

For any help and advice, please contact us

Author Danielle Myatt