Can I still use my CPAP machine if I have COVID-19?
Generally, it is not recommended to use your machine if you have COVID-19 with a bed partner because it can disperse into the air like an aerosol spray and emit tiny particles, which then increases potential exposure. However, if you rely on a CPAP/Bi-level device to treat your sleep apnea, abruptly discontinuing therapy may cause harm to your overall health. Quality sleep is known to boost your immune system and using your CPAP helps to ensure you are receiving quality sleep. Always seek medical advice before discontinuing any prescribed treatment – including your CPAP machine.
If I am hospitalized for COVID-19, should I bring my CPAP with me?
Most hospitals are declining any equipment that is brought into the hospital as it is considered contaminated, and biomed cannot be exposed to inspecting the devices. Please leave your equipment at home but make sure to inform hospital staff of your therapy needs and your current pressure setting.
Why the need for ventilators?
One of the main symptoms that affects a person who has tested positive with the coronavirus is shortness of breath (severe hypoxemia). The correct term for this severe shortness of breath is being observed as ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome) and this condition has a high mortality rate. ARDS patients have build-up fluid in the alveoli (the tiny air sacs in the lungs that transfer oxygen to the blood and remove carbon dioxide). Ventilators helps to keep the patient breathing adequately, giving the patient time to fight off the virus. While ventilators don’t treat the virus per se, they do give the patient a chance to fight back and lower the odds of dying from the virus.
What’s the difference between a CPAP and a ventilator?
CPAP, Bi-level, and Ventilator machines are all designed to help treat patients with breathing disorders. Pressurized air is used in all three units to help keep the airways open. A CPAP machine supports the inhalation of airflow, whereas a Bi-level or ventilator supports inhalation and exhalation. However, ventilators are typically only used for those who cannot breathe on their own, have severe respiratory diseases, and/or in acute settings. Also, CPAP and Bi-level machines are considered "open circuit," which means that because of the continuous flow of air and exhalation ports on the masks, air easily escapes into the room. A patient that has COVID-19 and is using CPAP or Bi-level needs to follow their physician's guidelines and ensure that no uninfected family member enters the room that the patient is using CPAP and/or Bi-level in. The virus could potentially be all over the room because of the open circuit, and not just on the surfaces that the patient has touched. Invasive ventilators are different because they are a "closed circuit" and the airflow remains in the circuit, so no COVID-19 can escape while a patient is using an invasive vent.
Can I donate my CPAP to help the Ventilator Shortage?
Across the country, there is a shortage of the ventilators that hospitals need to provide care for people who have COVID-19. Multiple groups are developing strategies to modify PAP machines so that they can be used as ventilators. One of these groups is the COVID-19 Ventilator Rapid Response Team, a coalition that includes UC Berkeley engineers, emergency room doctors, critical care physicians, and pulmonologists. They also have set up a website, VentilatorSOS.com, where you can fill out a form to indicate that you are interested in donating a CPAP or Bi-level machine.
What else do you suggest?
- If you have fever, cough or difficulty breathing, seek medical care early.
- Stay informed and follow advice given by your healthcare provider.
- For more information, we encourage you to visit the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 resource pages.