Some people say CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) therapy dries their mouth, nose, and throat. The reason: the pressurized air delivered by your CPAP machine can reduce moisture in nasal passages.
Robert Miller, the Apria Healthcare Vice President of Sleep Business, says, “This can cause sinus congestion, nose and throat irritation, nosebleeds, cracked lips, and nasal infections.”
But there’s a way to prevent dryness—it’s called a CPAP humidifier.
The CPAP Humidifier Replaces Lost Moisture
CPAP humidifiers replace moisture in your nasal passages that’s lost during your CPAP therapy.
The humidifier releases moisture from a small water chamber into the air you’re breathing from your CPAP machine. So it keeps your breathing passages moist, reduces dryness in your mouth, nose, and throat, and makes your CPAP therapy more comfortable.
Some CPAP machines have a humidifier built in. There are also external humidifiers that attach to your CPAP machine.
There are also two forms of humidification:
Heated humidification: This is appropriate for people who are very susceptible to dryness during CPAP therapy and for those who live in a cooler environment. A hot plate under the chamber heats the water, transforming it into humidity, and then delivers the warm, moisturized air through your mask into your nose and throat. The result: You breathe easier and more comfortably.
Passover humidification: Air passes over the room-temperature water in the chamber, delivering moisture at a low pressure to prevent dryness. The air tends to be cool; people who live in warm climates often find this method more comfortable than heated humidification. But if you prefer, heated CPAP tubing is available to warm the air.
Apria’s Robert Miller advises, “Your doctor can help you select the CPAP humidifier and humidification method best for you, depending on your specific needs and preferences.”
Fill the Humidifier with Distilled Water
Humidifiers need water to produce moisture—but not just any water. Some water can cause mineral buildup and bacterial growth, irritate your airways, and even ruin your CPAP machine.
So what is the water most manufacturers recommend? Distilled water.
Distilled water: It’s the purest form of water because it’s free of minerals and bacteria. So it won’t harm your CPAP machine—or you. It’s produced by first boiling the water and then condensing the vapor back to its original liquid form.
Distilled water is easy to find—most grocery or drug stores carry it. Apria can also ship it directly to you through our Supplies on Schedule program.
Following is an overview of other kinds of water—and why you should not use them.
Tap water: Sure, it’s always accessible—just turn on the faucet. And even though it may be safe to drink, tap water can contain minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and iron that build up over time and can damage your CPAP machine.
Purified water: Most bottled water starts as tap water and is then purified using a process called reverse osmosis. This helps remove impurities and microbes but may still contain minerals that can harm your CPAP machine.
Spring water: Formed and filtered underground before it reaches the above-ground spring. Unfortunately for CPAP machines, spring water tends to be rich in mineral content.
Mineral water: Derived from an underground source and contains a high percentage of minerals, so not ideal for your CPAP machine.
Of course, there are some things you should never put in your CPAP humidifier since they can damage it and cause lung irritation:
- Essential or scented oils
Keep Both Your CPAP Machine and Humidifier Clean
It’s the best way to prevent the build-up of any harmful bacteria or mold. Clean your mask and tubing—ideally, every day but at least once a week. And follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for cleaning your CPAP machine.
Also, wash your humidifier’s water chamber daily with mild soap and warm water. But don’t use the following harsh cleansers; even trace amounts that remain in the chamber can damage your lungs:
Say Goodbye to Dry
If you’re waking up with a dry mouth, dry throat, or nasal irritation, talk to your doctor about a CPAP humidifier. Adds Robert Miller, “It’s a simple, effective solution to help you get the most out of your CPAP therapy—and get a restful night’s sleep.”