Sleep Care

Tips for Traveling with CPAP

For those folks diagnosed with sleep apnea and who depend on their CPAP machine for a decent night’s rest, traveling might seem like an unnecessary hassle. However, being aware of recent innovations, aids and preparation tips can make traveling with your CPAP can be as convenient as packing your toothbrush.

The first step to a stress free trip is to cover your bases with any CPAP accessory that you may need like extra batteries, an extension cord, and a traveling bag to keep your CPAP and accessories stored in. Many CPAP manufacturers now make a number of accessories that will benefit travel. If the availability of electricity is in question, investing in a manufacturer recommended battery back up may be worthwhile. If you plan to use the humidifier on your CPAP, using tap water is okay in emergencies, but is not recommended for long-term use as mineral deposits can build up and damage the machine.  You can request a prescription for distilled water from your doctor.  This will allow you to take a larger amount of water through the TSA checkpoints.

For those flying to your destination, there is a bit more preparation to make before leaving on your getaway.  Prior to booking your flight, try to book a seat next to a power outlet.  You will also need to invest in a universal power adapter, voltage converter, and an AC/DC inverter.  The universal power adapter will allow you to plug into virtually any type of outlet, and the voltage converter will ensure that your machine can properly provide the correct amount of pressure.

With the increasing measures being taken to ensure safety, many travelers are concerned that there may be added obstacles from airport security. According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), CPAP machine respirators are permitted beyond security checkpoints.  However, TSA also states that any respiratory unit that Security Officers cannot clear during inspection will not be permitted into the sterile area. To avoid any surprises you should contact the Airport Security Personnel prior to traveling.  Speak to them about the experience that you can expect from airport security while traveling with your CPAP machine.  They should be able to advise you whether or not your CPAP machine will be permitted through the airport checkpoints. Some helpful tips to keep in mind while making your way through the airport is to have your CPAP carry-on bag labeled with a medical equipment identification tag.  Advise the TSA officer that you have a CPAP unit and request that the checkpoint personnel change gloves and wipe down the security tables with antiseptic before inspecting your machine.

Obtaining a letter of approval for CPAP use from the airline’s Medical Services, a copy of your Prescription, and a “Statement of Medical Necessity” from your doctor are great tools to have in case you run into problems passing through security or during your flight. If you will be traveling internationally these documents will be essential for timely passage through airport security and customs, and will also be helpful if you need any replacement parts for your CPAP while on your trip.

Frequent fliers may want to consider the purchase of a second travel size CPAP unit in order to keep your primary unit at home and avoid the possibility of being damaged during travel. If you’d prefer travel without your CPAP machine, you should talk to your doctor about alternative forms of therapy.  Depending on the severity and conditions of your sleep apnea, you may qualify for a dental device or Provent Therapy, both of which are small enough to fit in your pocket.  For some it can be used in place of CPAP therapy and for others it’s an easier and temporary way to receive treatment for their sleep apnea while traveling.  Keep in mind that these alternative treatments are not for everybody.  Take time to speak with your doctor about which therapy would work best for you.