If you use continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or bilevel to treat your sleep apnea, you may wonder how often you should replace your supplies. These items may include mask, headgear, chinstrap, tubing, filters, humidifier chamber, and even the CPAP unit itself. Why should you keep your equipment updated? Learn about the importance of keeping your CPAP equipment new and what replacement schedule you should follow.
Keeping Your Therapy Safe, Effective
It may seem wasteful to replace your CPAP supplies when the equipment looks perfectly fine. Even if you are diligent about cleaning your CPAP, you may still want to follow a replacement schedule to ensure your health and treatment efficacy.
Fortunately, CPAP is a very safe therapy with few risks of side effects. The most common adverse effects are related to swallowing air (aerophagia) or from pressure marks or sores from a poor mask fit. There is virtually no risk of contracting infection from the device. When new, it is sterile. When used, the “bugs” in the mask, tubing, and even the humidifier are yours. If the device is not shared with others, there is no risk of likewise sharing germs. In order to reduce even a minuscule theoretical risk, it may be advisable to keep the equipment new.
A greater risk may be not replacing your machine’s filters. These keep debris from your bedroom environment – everything from pet dander to cigarette smoke to dust – from entering the machine and, ultimately, your nose, mouth, or lungs. This may lead to exposure to allergens which might contribute to allergies, congestion, or other health problems.
If your ability to faithfully and thoroughly clean your equipment is compromised, this might lead to other problems. Exposure to mold is a theoretical risk given the warm and moist environment of the humidifier and tubing. If you fail to use distilled water in your humidifier tank, this might lead to the accumulation of minerals that discolor and damage this component. By not replacing your equipment, this debris may accumulate further and pollute the air you breathe.
Moreover, older equipment is likely to become less effective. The plastics used to make the standard CPAP masks gradually break down. The oils of your skin may expedite this process. The delicate plastic may also be prone to small tears. The CPAP tubing may develop small holes in it. These changes can cause an increased leak and poor fit. The pressure provided by the machine may also be compromised as the air leaks out instead of being delivered to you. In addition, as the machine itself gets older, it may not generate the pressures required to keep your airway open.
For all these reasons, it is important to regularly replace your CPAP equipment to ensure the function and safety of the treatment.
When to Replace Your CPAP Supplies
Your durable medical equipment provider may keep you on schedule for replacement of your supplies. Given the concern for potential fraud, they may need to receive requests from you in order to send new equipment. These replacements are covered by most insurance, but you may want to check with your provider to verify the proper schedule for you. In general, it can be helpful to understand the anticipated lifespan of your equipment and how often it should be swapped out. The following guidelines may be helpful:
Your mask should be replaced every 3 months. For most insurance, the mask is understood to be the harder plastic portion of your interface. The softer plastic cushion insert or pillows that actually touch your skin may be replaced more often. The fabric straps and Velcro that make up the headgear of the mask are also replaced separately at a different frequency.
Mask Cushion and Pillows
The mask cushion or nasal pillows may be replaced as often as 2 times per month. Again, this is understood to be the part of the mask that actually touches your face. If it is a piece that can be separated from the rest of the mask’s harder plastic framework, chances are it will be replaced independently. If you have a full-face mask, this cushion may only be replaced once per month.
Most mask headgear is made from a material called neoprene. This stretchy material helps to accommodate the shape of your head to ensure an optimal mask. As it repeatedly stretches, it may start to give too much and may not keep a proper mask seal. In addition, oils from your skin or hair may also accumulate. Headgear will generally be replaced every 6 months.
Much like the headgear that keeps the CPAP mask in place, a chinstrap may gradually weaken and become overly stretched. The Velcro may also become less effective over time. Therefore, chinstraps are also replaced every 6 months.
Tubing is understood to be the plastic hose that connects the CPAP device to your mask. It may be standard or heated. The tube can become dirty over time, with condensation increasing the risk of contaminants that could enter your lungs. Small holes that may form as the plastic of the tubing breaks down may reduce the treatment effectiveness. Therefore, CPAP tubing should be replaced every 3 months.
Your CPAP machine may have two types of filters, both of which require regular replacement. The Respironics machines have a gray foam filter that should be rinsed often and replaced every 6 months. Beneath it, there should be a white paper filter that should be replaced every 2 weeks. The ResMed machines have a white filter that should be replaced every 2 weeks. Some insurance may only replace these monthly, but these relatively inexpensive components should be kept as clean as possible. This will ensure the purity of the air you breathe as well as the long-term functionality of your device.
Humidifier Water Chamber
If your CPAP has an integrated or attached heated humidifier, you will need to clean and occasionally replace the water chamber. As discussed, a failure to use distilled water may lead to further problems with keeping the water reservoir clean. Regardless, this water tank should be replaced every 6 months.
CPAP or Bilevel Device
How often should you replace your entire CPAP or bilevel device? These devices occasionally develop problems that may require repair or early replacement. If you encounter any difficulties, such as a funny noise, warning message or alarm, or complete loss of function, contact your equipment provider. If the machine works well, as it should, it will last for years. Typically, insurance will pay to replace the device every 5 years. If you change insurance or pay out of pocket, you may be able to replace the unit sooner.
In order to keep your CPAP working well and to optimize the treatment of your sleep apnea, make sure to keep your equipment clean and replace the supplies as often as your insurance provider will allow.