CPAP Safety Concerns During the Coronavirus Pandemic
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CPAP Safety Concerns During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Many sleep apnea patients have expressed concerns about how to best use CPAP safely during the coronavirus pandemic. While there has been some confusion over this issue, information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), has been consistent in its recommendations for those with health conditions such as sleep apnea. Most importantly, sleep specialists strongly urge patients to continue with their therapy as much as possible. Maintaining high adherence levels for PAP therapy is critical for the treatment’s effectiveness, both in the short term and for long-term health benefits that can keep patients from developing comorbid conditions beyond the problems of sleep apnea. While there are certainly additional precautions to take during the pandemic, for example, optimal hygiene and safety measures such as social distancing, patients should do what they can to stay healthy, and this includes regular adherence to PAP-therapy treatment.
What Are the Concerns?
One of the major concerns about using CPAP during the current pandemic is the chance for increased risk to others due to the output of expiratory airflow from the CPAP system. While this is a legitimate concern, it is only a concern if the person using CPAP has been infected with the virus. In situations where patients are following current guidelines regarding social distance and persistent hand-washing inside and outside of the home, there may be little concern for spreading a possible infection. This is especially the case for patients who are staying in the home with one other person, such as a partner or spouse. But for those patients who must leave the home regularly, or where infection is a possibility, some health professionals do recommend a “sleep room” for CPAP use. This would mean that strict social distancing would extend to the home, and separation of the patient from loved ones may be recommended to maintain a safe home environment. Of course, if a patient does become infected with the COVID-19 illness, the “sleep room” would need to be escalated to a full-time “sick room” to keep as much distance as possible from others within the home. This should also include a separate bathroom if one is available.
Another issue is sanitation. The CDC recommends cleaning and disinfecting any frequently touched surfaces, and special attention should be given not just to the therapy equipment, but to all surfaces within the home. This means that cleaning and sanitization should be routine in all situations, and particularly for items in the therapy environment. This includes regular CPAP cleaning according to the instructions on product user guides, but also frequent cleaning of bedding, tabletops, doorknobs, and any other surface frequently touched throughout the home.
Additional filtration should also be used where applicable. CPAP without a properly filtered seal can potentially increase the risk of transmission if you have the virus, but it can also reduce the effectiveness of the treatment. Filtration and proper seal can be checked by your equipment provider or a health professional, or you can simply check the readings on your device’s therapy data records. Additional filters can also be purchased online from most CPAP equipment retailers. Simply check your model to see which types of filters it uses and how long the filters are meant to last. For the most part, PAP therapy devices use three main types of filters: reusable (washable), disposable, and bacteria filters, but most devices will use a combination of filter types. Just make sure you read the instructions for each type to know which are washable and which should be discarded after a specified period of time.
Again, as long as proper cleaning and sanitization procedures are followed, the benefits of continuing with regular therapy sessions will likely outweigh the threat of contagion in the chance that an infection has occurred. But if there is a chance that a patient could have a COVID-19 infection, additional measures should be taken immediately. Get tested as soon as possible, and until you know for certain that you are clear of a COVID-19 infection, take extra measures to physically distance yourself from others in the home and beyond. The dangers of this pathogen should never be minimized or ignored, regardless of your age or condition. In the case of an infection, take any action you can to stop the spread of this virus.
Recommendations from Medical Professionals
As mentioned in our previous articles concerning the COVID-19 virus, the coronavirus pathogen spreads through saliva or other bodily fluids, usually by breathing in the droplets or touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. According to the World Health Organization website, the most common signs of COVID-19 illness include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, soreness or aching, and in some cases, severe pneumonia, but it is important to remember that these symptoms may not arrive for several days following an infection. If you suspect that you or someone you know may have COVID-19 symptoms, the CDC’s Coronavirus Symptom Self-Checker is a good source for a quick assessment of the most common signs and symptoms.
For sleep apnea patients, the AASM has published a thorough list of resources that also includes important recommendations from the CDC. While some of these recommendations are fairly standard for disease control, such as avoiding travel, not touching your face, or washing your hands after touching things in public, others are more specific to sleep apnea, for example, direct links to CPAP cleaning instructions for both Philips Respironics and ResMed products.
One of the best current resources for sleep apnea patients is ResMed’s new Coronavirus Information Page, which includes a list of health organization links and FAQ answers offering a convenient way to get quick information on a variety of issues and concerns about COVID-19 and how it affects sleep apnea patients specifically. These resources, including some of the most common concerns expressed online, include everything from risks of infection and proper sanitization of equipment to the benefits of therapy as a defense against the coronavirus. Also included is a good amount of information about what you should do if you are indeed diagnosed with the COVID-19 illness. This information is extremely helpful for those facing serious health concerns, while at the same time wish to protect their loved ones and others from possible infection. This is why ResMed, like the CDC and the AASM, emphasize prevention as the best treatment. While this is not always possible, it is something we should all strive for.
American Academy of Sleep Medicine - https://aasm.org/coronavirus-covid-19-faqs-cpap-sleep-apnea-patients
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/index.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Coronavirus Factsheet - https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/2019-ncov-factsheet.pdf
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Coronavirus Self Checker - https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/index.html
FDA Press Announcement - https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-continues-facilitate-access-crucial-medical-products-including
MDmag.com - https://www.mdmag.com/medical-news/sleep-apnea-treatment-coronavirus-droplets
ResMed - https://www.resmed.com/in/en/consumer/blogbs/coronavirus-infection.html
ResMed Coronavirus Information Page - https://www.resmed.com/en-us/covid-19/
Sleep Health Solutions - https://www.sleephealthsolutionsohio.com/blogb/coronavirus-sleep-apnea-cpap-therapy/
World Health Organization - https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus