Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition where a person has problems breathing at night. Specifically, the airways are repeatedly blocked causing the person to stop breathing for an extended time. The body struggles to get the blocked airway open, which usually happens with a gasp, snore sound or jerking of the body. (1) This is hard on the body and can cause problems from sleepiness during the day, to high blood pressure and other health problems.

A common treatment for sleep apnea is the use of a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine, or CPAP for short. The CPAP has a mask that covers the nose and/or mouth and forces air into the body. The air flow can be adjusted to just enough pressure to keep the airway open. (1,2) The CPAP is used just while sleeping.

Since air from the CPAP is forced into a person’s airway, it is important to keep the machine clean. There are filters that should be replaced regularly. If your machine uses disposable filters, they should be replaced every three months. If your machine uses reusable filters, they should be rinsed with warm water and patted dry every week; replace these reusable filters every six months. The CPAP tubing should be replaced every three months. The humidifier chamber in a CPAP is especially susceptible to growing germs because of the water it holds. Clean the chamber daily with equal parts water and white vinegar. This chamber should also be replaced every six months. These are general guidelines for CPAP maintenance. For specific guidelines, please refer to the manual the came with your machine.

It is important to also keep the area around your CPAP clean. When repairing CPAP’s in our office, we find everything from the machines completely clean after being used for ten years to being infested with roaches. One machine did not have a filter in place and we found this dead mouse inside.

A dead mouse was found inside this CPAP.
A dead mouse was found inside this CPAP.

Remember, if you use a CPAP, the machine is blowing air directly into your lungs. So, if you are unsure of the cleanliness of your machine, it might be a good idea to get it checked out. Below is a quick reference chart for maintaining your CPAP.

CPAP maintenance


Laurie M. DeChello, MPH, CPH

ASP does not provide medical advice. If you have questions about your illness or treatment, please contact your doctor.

Works Cited

1. WebMD. Understanding Obstructive Sleep Apnea. [Online] 2012. http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/understanding-obstructive-sleep-apnea-syndrome

2. WebMD. Sleep Apnea Treatments. [Online] 2012. http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/sleep-apnea/sleep-apnea-treatments

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