cpap with a cold
CPAP Therapy Tips

Using Your CPAP With a Cold? How to Do It Right!

Chances are, despite all of your best hygienic efforts, you will get sick at some point. This article is a resource for anyone who uses a CPAP machine and struggles with a cold at the same time. Getting a good night’s sleep can become a daunting task when dealing with a head cold and is only amplified for those suffering from Sleep Apnea.

Combine those two things with trying to use your CPAP machine, and you may be tempted to double up your dosage of nightly cold medicine.

Of course, the severity of your Sleep Apnea can make a difference, so it’s always best to check with your doctor before using your CPAP machine when you’re sick. Here, we have a handful of tips, tricks and other solutions you can try as you nurse yourself back to health:

Woman Sleeping in Her Bed with Cold & Flu Remedies on Night Stand

Should You Stop Using Your CPAP Machine if You Have a Cold?

If you have a cold, it’s a good idea to try to continue your CPAP therapy, if you can. Having a cold will make you tired, and if you’re also feeling tired from not treating your Sleep Apnea, you’re not going to have much energy. If you continue CPAP therapy, you may be able to keep your Sleep Apnea symptoms in check, giving you more energy to fight the cold.

In the next section, we’ll be discussing other strategies that can help you CPAP with a cold.

How to Use CPAP With a Cold

If you’re trying to stick it out and CPAP with a cold, there are a couple of things you can do it make it easier on you. Here are some tips that may help.

Sleep on your side or elevate your head.

If you’re wondering how to use CPAP with a cold, try changing your sleeping position. Sleeping on your back can often make congestion worse. Try sleeping on your side — there are even specific pillows available for side sleepers who wear CPAP face masks.

If you find that you are strictly a back sleeper, use extra pillows to elevate your head to allow the mucus to drain, rather than stuff you up.

Sleeping on your side uses gravity to help open the airway naturally using gravity. This means your CPAP machine doesn’t have to work as hard to open your airway and can mean a lower AHI. If you are trying to CPAP with a cold, sleeping on your side may help.

Use a heated humidifier.

Heated humidifiers work by restoring moisture levels to mucous membranes and nasal passages, alleviating the extreme discomfort that goes along with a congested upper respiratory system.

Heated humidifiers help those who are struggling not only with a head cold, but they also make the CPAP therapy experience exceptionally more pleasant for those suffering from allergies, dry nose, and other nasal issues. Use a heated humidifier at night and your nasal passages will thank you.

Use a decongestant and nasal spray.

This probably seems obvious, but there are plenty of over-the-counter nasal sprays that clear congestion caused by the common cold or flu. Another way to CPAP with a cold is to use a saline nasal rinse to clear your nasal passages prior to using your CPAP machine.

Just remember: if you choose to use an over-the-counter nasal spray, consult your physician first, especially if you suffer from high blood pressure. Certain medications, when combined with others, can have negative health effects.

Try an APAP machine.

The traditional CPAP machine provides a singular flow of therapeutic pressure through the respiratory system, whereas an APAP machine, known as Auto Positive Airway Pressure (APAP), uses unique algorithms to provide continuous pressure at levels that are automatically regulated.

When using an APAP machine, the machine itself will adjust air pressure accordingly so all you have to do is sleep. When you are sick, the need for more or less pressure depends on how well you’re breathing, making an APAP machine your most suitable option.

If using a nasal mask, substitute it out for a full face CPAP mask.

Congestion can leave your nose out of commission, so using a full face CPAP mask is a great option, as it allows you to breathe through your mouth while you sleep. While the air pressure blowing through the nasal mask may open your nasal passages up enough, a full face CPAP mask may be your ideal solution.

Regular Cleaning Can Help Keep You from Getting Sick

Cleaning your CPAP equipment regularly can help stave off future infections. When you’re sick, germs populate in and around your mask, and as you start to get better, there’s a chance you can get reinfected. That’s why it’s important to follow a more rigorous cleaning schedule when you’re sick.

Ideally, you should clean your mask once daily when you’re sick. This is especially true if you have a nasal pillow mask, as the nasal pillow mask style makes a lot of contact with the nostrils. Regular cleaning can also stave off future infections by giving germs less chance to turn into something you’re not going to be immune to. It will help keep you healthier longer and make it easier to recover if you do get sick.

We hope you’ve found this article helpful as you try to adjust to CPAP with a cold. Find more solutions to common CPAP problems here.

Having a cold during the winter months is never fun, and adding CPAP therapy into the mix complicates things. With these tips, you can get a better night’s sleep and feel better in no time!

Daniela has researched and published over 60 articles covering topics that aim to inform and empower people living with Sleep Apnea. As an avid reader and researcher, Daniela continues to grow her knowledge about Sleep Apnea and CPAP therapy everyday with the help of coworkers, customers, and members of other CPAP communities online.


      Hey Stan, an Auto Adjusting CPAP or “APAP” blows your ideal pressure on a breath-by-breath basis. BPAP machines blows two separate pressures, one for inhalation and one for exhalation.

      Please let us know if there is anything else we can assist you with.

    Great advice! I have used all the techniques you described and with success. Keep giving us Sleep Apnea suffers advice when there is new information!!

    I found this article very helpful as it relates to having a cold while using a CPAP device \. I have a So-Clean device and my question is will the So-Clean device kill cold germs? I’ve been concerned with my So-Clean that it does not give confirmation to what degree my CPAP mask and associated hose has been cleaned the only confirmation you get is the color of the light (green indicating the mask and its components are clean

      Hi Robert,

      My apologies, but we do not sell any of the SO-Clean products, therefore my knowledge of the extent of cleanliness that the machine has on colds is not enough to accurately answer your question. The information that I have about the So-Clean is most likely equivalent to what you already know which is that using the SoClean is good for cleaning and sanitizing that kills 99.9% of CPAP germs and bacteria in your mask, hose, and reservoir.

      Please see the link below to find the contact information for for additional questions, or concerns on their products.

      Enjoy your day!

    can using a CPAP/APAP machine cause bronchial irritation and deep coughing? Since I started using my machine 3 months ago I have noticed that I have had a deeper cough and irritated lungs. I am using the humidifier at level 6 and sometimes cutting it down to 4-5. The only other problem I have encountered is I must be swallowing or inhaling a lot of air, I have been waking up feeling bloated and like I have swallowed a balloon. I have started taking anti gas pills and raising my head up with pillows; I tend to suffer sometimes with acid reflux. Thank you. for your help

      Hello Jill,

      I am not certain if your bronchial irritation and deep coughing is a direct result of your CPAP use. I would encourage you to speak with your doctor regarding the symptoms that you are experiencing.

      Bloating is a sign you are swallowing the CPAP air. There is no real medical solution, but we have found that your sleeping position may be a factor. First, try sleeping as flat as possible, even without a pillow. If the bloating persists, try sleeping on your side or elevated. The position must be different from your current posture.

      If changing your position doesn’t resolve the problem, talk to your doctor about the possibility of lowering your pressure a bit. It may let a few apneas through, but the trade-off might be worth it.

      Please let us know if we can be of further assistance. We can be reached at: 800-356-5221.

      Enjoy your day

    What has always worked well for me is to put one or two drops of camphor oil in the humidifier water. Let it run about 10 minuets before putting the mask on.

      Hi Brian,

      I am glad to hear that this is working for you. Please make note that it’s recommended that a customer not try to put essential oils in CPAP humidifiers directly. Instead, the recommended way to add CPAP aromatherapy to CPAP therapy is by using a diffuser pad. Putting scented oils in the humidifier can cause irritation and can damage the machine, and is not recommended.

      I wish you the best!

    Very interesting article.
    To help with a cold is posible or good advise to put some natural decongestant in the humidifier water, like eucalyptus ?


      Hey Rodolfo,

      It’s recommended that a customer not try to put essential oils in CPAP humidifiers directly. Instead, the recommended way to add CPAP aromatherapy to CPAP therapy is by using a diffuser pad. Putting scented oils in the humidifier can cause irritation and can damage the machine, and is not recommended. Please see below the link below for more information on an option to help with congestion.

      Please let us know if we can be of further assistance.

    I have noticed that I am having air cycling out through my mouth like little puffs. Are you familiar with this issue and do you have any suggestions such as the cause and possible solution? thanks in advance.

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