Between TSA screenings and rental cars, traveling can be stressful enough. Make your CPAP machine the least of your worries with our Ten Tips for Traveling with Your CPAP. As always, our recommendations are meant to make everyday life a little easier; please consult your doctor or sleep therapist for medical advice or treatment.
1.) Allow time to dry.
Bacteria thrive in a warm, humid, and dark environment―making your freshly used, unwashed CPAP machine party central for unsavory microorganisms. Before you fly, always empty the water from your humidifier chamber, then clean and sanitize your CPAP machine, allowing time for it to completely dry before packing it away.
2.) Water quality matters.
If you shouldn’t drink the water at your destination, you shouldn’t inhale it through a CPAP machine, either. That’s because poorly treated water is littered with pathogens that can be harmful when breathed in. Even when the tap water where you’re headed is safe for consumption, CPAP manufacturers still recommend using distilled water in your device, thanks to damaging minerals and chemical contaminants that tap leaves behind. Bottled water is a good temporary substitute for distilled, although not quite as safe. Keep in mind, all water sits stagnant in your CPAP’s humidifier―avoid an overgrowth of harmful bacteria by changing this water daily.
3.) Carry-on rules (seriously, it does).
Federal law recognizes CPAP machines as a “medical device,” and requires the Travel Security Administration (TSA) to allow you to bring your CPAP with you when you travel. Happily, these same laws also prevent your CPAP from being counted toward your carry-on bag total, should you choose to bring it with you onboard.
Each airline has their own rules and requirements for using this medically necessary device in-flight. We recommend that you notify your airline of your intent to use a CPAP prior to your departure date―which may also help you determine any extra equipment (e.g. cables, adaptors, etc.) that will be needed to make it work.
4.) Checking: one, two, three…
If you plan to check your machine―regardless whether in its own bag or packed in a suitcase―it can still be selected for a behind-the-scenes search. Most screeners can easily recognize your CPAP machine as a medical device, so stashing it away with your socks and t-shirts shouldn’t raise any red flags. Just be aware that storing your CPAP in a checked bag means that it, too, will go missing in the event the airline loses track of your luggage.
Because of all the extra handling, CPAP machines are also more likely to be damaged when checked; so, try to pack your device so that it’s protected against all that extra movement.
5.) Bring a clear plastic bag. Maybe two.
Airplane cabins are germy enough; don’t let your CPAP machine add your bacterial bio load. Protect your machine from surprise encounters with germy hands and surfaces with a simple plastic bag.
A carried-on CPAP machine will be subject to TSA scanning and potential searches. For your machine to be properly x-rayed and examined, it will need to be removed from its case and placed in the same bin where 200 other people just put their shoes. Placing your CPAP machine inside a transparent plastic bag first will help protect it from contact with unwanted pathogens.
6.) Afraid of damage or theft? Don’t forget your papers.
If you’re using your method of travel for the first time or traveling to an area of unknown security, it may be prudent to take extra precautions. A Letter of Medical Necessity, as provided by your doctor, can help you avoid hurdles of using your CPAP machine on trains and other public transport. This letter will include information such as your doctor’s contact information, reason for needing the medical device, reasonable usage, and/or diagnosis.
If you CPAP becomes lost, stolen, or damaged while you’re away, having a prescription for another CPAP on hand is a lifesaver. Ask your doctor for the Rx and then keep it in your wallet when you’re traveling out of network.
7.) Consider upgrading.
Leaving your CPAP machine at home is never a good idea, even for a short stint. Travel CPAP machines are lighter and more portable than their counterparts while performing the same essential functions. If your lifestyle requires frequent travel, you can streamline your routine with a travel-sized CPAP machine. Travel CPAPs can be covered by insurance, but since many jet-setting sleep apnea patients prefer to keep a standard-sized machine at home, the cost for an additional travel device may need to come out-of-pocket.
8.) Keep things clean.
The American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA) recommends cleaning of soft mask parts and water chamber every morning, and a weekly cleaning of the tubing, foam filters, and the rest of your mask. Soapy water may cleanse your components, but if you’re looking to kill the germs hiding inside your machine, we recommend CleanSmart Disinfectant Spray for CPAP. CleanSmart kills 99.9% of viruses and bacteria as it dries―without rinsing or residue.
9.) Call ahead.
Much like the rooms themselves, hotel nightstands aren’t known for their extra space. It’s often difficult to find space for your CPAP among the table lamp, landline phone, and charging station already next to your bed. Make a quick call to the concierge prior to your arrival and they’ll equip your room with an extra table or stand just for your CPAP machine.
10.) Avoid a power struggle.
If you’re traveling overseas, you may need to pack an adaptor to keep your CPAP and other small electronics powered. Fortunately, many countries have a standard voltage and plug type―so when necessary, a single adaptor is usually enough. Another solution is a battery backup―though they, too, will eventually need recharging.