How To Manage OSA During Flu Season

18568570_sHistorically, February and March are the peak months for flu infections. Unfortunately, the flu doesn’t care if you already have obstructive sleep apnea and trouble breathing when you are sleeping.

Having the flu means that your respiratory passages are full of mucous and are swollen due to the infection. This on its own makes it difficult to breath, but trying to breath with a CPAP mask on can be nearly impossible.

If you find yourself sick with the flu, make sure to talk with your doctor about the best schedule for using your CPAP machine. Compliance with your doctor’s orders for CPAP use must be your top priority, even if you do have the flu, but it is easier said than done.

Depending on the severity of your OSA, your doctor may be able to be lenient about your CPAP therapy. If not, here are some tips for using your CPAP machine when you have the flu:

  • Always use a heated humidifier. The humidification helps to shrink your mucous membranes which will improve dryness and help with evacuating the mucous. The virus is trapped in the mucous in your respiratory system, so anything that helps to evacuate that mucous will help to get you over your flu.
  • Use a full face mask with your CPAP while you have the flu. This way, if you are having to mouth-breath during your flu, you will still get the benefit of the CPAP therapy.
  • Talk with your doctor about decongestants and nasal sprays that may be helpful. With nasal sprays (other than saline) you want to limit their use, but if you only use them at night it might be a good way to get some relief.
  • Sleep elevated. Leverage gravity and sleep sitting mostly upright, so that the mucous will drain out of your sinuses rather than pool overnight.
  • Make sure to keep your CPAP equipment clean and sanitized. You don’t want to re-infect yourself after you have recovered from your flu. Fully disassemble your mask and clean it completely to make sure all bacteria and virus germs have been eradicated.

The number one way to reduce your chances of getting the flu is proper hand washing. If you have OSA and use a CPAP machine, make sure to keep your hands as clean as possible during these peak flu season months.

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