Flying with Sleep Apnea: Taking Your CPAP is a Challenge

Written by Manny Erlich on July 11, 2012. Posted in Blog, Sleep Disorders

For people with sleep apnea, traveling just got a bit more difficult (as if it wasn’t enough already!). 

The new rules for TSA screening took effect on August 4, 2007. How did these new rule effect frequent flyers with sleep apnea conditions?

The government rules state large electronic equipment such as video cameras, DVD players, laptops and (yes) CPAP machines must be removed from carry-on luggage and placed in bins. This a major nuisance and inconvenience for business travelers traveling only with carry-ons  and also have a laptop.

Further, there is a health issue concern in that CPAP machines that supply air directly into the lungs can get contaminated when placed in bins previously containing shoes.

What can I do if I am flying with Sleep Apnea?

If you absolutely have to take your CPAP machine, one solution is to pack it in plastic bags shielding it from possible contamination.

Another possibility is to leave the CPAP machine at home. This alternative poses a health risk and is not advised. Business travelers generally function on a lower level and bed-partners will need to deal with snoring. Not having the CPAP machine increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

A good alternative is to consider the use of an oral appliance when traveling with sleep apnea. This avoids the frequent air traveler from carrying the cumbersome CPAP machine. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine views an oral appliance and CPAP as a first line of treatment for mild to moderate sleep apnea condition and for severe sleep apnea for an individual who stopped using CPAP as a solution.

Traveling with an oral appliance is easy. It fits in a shirt pocket and can be worn on the plane allowing the traveler to sleep without the fear of disturbing other passengers. Oral appliances are also hassle free when compared to a CPAP machine that requires clean hoses and distilled water. An oral appliance is generally cleaned with a toothbrush and toothpaste.

Individuals traveling regularly for business and suffering from sleep apnea may find it easier carrying an oral appliance on the next flight out.

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Manny Erlich

International Foundation of Employee Benefits - Certified Employee Benefits Specialist

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