Although we can pick up a cold or the flu at any time, there’s a definitive cold and flu season that rolls around each year. Here in the United States, from the months of October to May, cases of the influenza virus and strains of the common cold begin to rise. Everywhere you go, you will hear the familiar chorus of coughing and sniffling. If you use CPAP therapy to treat your sleep apnea, you may be concerned about how this season could potentially affect your rest.
Keep reading to learn more about cold and flu season, how it affects you as a CPAP user, and what you can do to stay healthy this fall and winter.
What Causes Cold and Flu Season?
During the fall and winter months, most Americans spend an increased amount of time indoors. Because of changes to the weather, they’re also getting less exercise, taking in less Vitamin D, and enjoying significantly less fresh air than they do during the rest of the year. These factors, combined with the fact that they’re gathering in sealed and heated rooms, lead to an uptick in cold and flu cases.
Are CPAP Users at Special Risk for Colds or Flu?
The good news is that CPAP users are at no greater risk than anyone else of catching the common cold or a case of the flu. Both the common cold and Influenza A and B are on the rise at this time of year, but using your CPAP will put you in no extra danger.
Here are a few things you can do to make sure your odds of catching a cold/the flu stay as low as possible:
- Stay away from people who are sick
- Regularly wash your hands with soap and water
- Avoid touching your face, nose, mouth, and eyes, especially when you are out in public
- Clean and disinfect common surfaces regularly
In order to help slow the possible spread of these illnesses, make sure that you also protect others by staying home when you’re not feeling well and by covering your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough. You could also talk to your doctor about whether you’re a good candidate for the flu shot.
If you do contract a cold or the flu, be sure to drink plenty of fluids, rest well, continue to eat nutritious meals, and check in with your healthcare provider to be sure your body is effectively fighting off your illness. In a given year, the flu alone results in 39-56 million illnesses and tens of thousands of deaths, according to CDC data. In other cases, the influenza may develop complications, such as pneumonia or bronchitis. As a CPAP user, since sleep apnea can increase your risk of either complication due to the increased likelihood to inhale more fluid into your lungs, it is really, really, really, REALLY important that you keep your CPAP equipment clean.
What Should CPAP Users Know About Cold and Flu Season?
While CPAP users aren’t necessarily at increased risk of becoming ill during cold and flu season, there are a few extra considerations they should bear in mind if they do become sick.
Upper respiratory infections may make use of your CPAP challenging–if not impossible. If you have a cold or a stuffy nose, you should consider taking a break from sleeping with your CPAP. While this step may seem drastic, you are unlikely to suffer any side effects from hitting pause on your CPAP use for a short period of time, and sleeping without your CPAP could protect you from the risks of potential secondary infections. As always, contact your Sleep Specialist to ensure that pausing your CPAP therapy is right for you.
Check out our lowdown on everything from Vick’s Vapor Rub on your CPAP, to which mask types are more affected, in our blog post “Should I Continue Using a CPAP when I Have a Cold?”
If your cold or flu symptoms are very mild, you might be able to continue using your CPAP; however (and we can’t say this enough!), you should always be careful to clean and disinfect it thoroughly. If you’re struggling to keep your CPAP supplies clean, we love the SoClean (on sale now!) as it’ll do the job for you—no mess, no stress!
While keeping your machine clean is always important, giving it a thorough cleaning both during and after having been ill is essential for your ongoing health.
We Can Help
To learn more about sleeping well with a CPAP, how to navigate cold and flu season with sleep apnea, or to get started on your Sleep Treatment Journey, please contact us at any time. We look forward to hearing from you!