COVID-19 — more commonly known as the coronavirus — has led to massive disruptions around the globe. From business shutdowns and stock market plunges to event cancellations and travel restrictions, the changes caused by this virus are undeniable, and are affecting practically every citizen in the country.
Of course, all of this is being done for good reasons — the high mortality rates of the virus show that it is much more than “just another type of flu.” As of this writing, worldwide, over 183,000 have contracted the disease (including 5,000 in the United States), and over 7,000 have died. Those in high-risk groups are being asked to stay indoors and avoid group gatherings.
For CPAP users, perhaps one of the most alarming aspects related to COVID-19 are the reports that older individuals and those with pre-existing health conditions have a much higher mortality rate than the overall population. This leads many to wonder if their sleep apnea diagnosis puts them at a greater risk from the coronavirus.
While there are still many unknowns surrounding the coronavirus — and its affect on sleep apnea patients — there are also some basic guidelines that CPAP users should be aware of.
Who is at the Greatest Risk From COVID-19?
Thus far, there hasn’t been a confirmed direct link between sleep apnea patients and COVID-19 mortality rates. However, sleep apnea often contributes to or stems from several other underlying health conditions which are impacted by the coronavirus. Sleep apnea is also more likely to occur in individuals over the age of 40 — and the older you are, the greater your risk for a serious infection.
According to data from Worldometers, certain pre-existing conditions greatly increase the risk of death for individuals who contract COVID-19. In confirmed coronavirus cases, those with cardiovascular disease had a 13.2 percent death rate. Diabetes patients suffered a 9.2 percent mortality rate, while those with hypertension suffered an 8.4 percent death rate. All of this castle outweighs the 0.9 percent death rate of individuals without such pre-existing conditions.
For CPAP users, these numbers should be concerning because a large number of individuals who suffer from sleep apnea also experience one or more of these health problems. Untreated sleep apnea has previously been reported to double the risk of death due to heart disease, and is a known contributor to heart failure, resistant hypertension, and type 2 diabetes.
Because of this, it is clear that CPAP users who also suffer from one of these other sleep apnea-related conditions should exercise extreme caution in light of the current pandemic. If you aren’t currently compliant with your CPAP therapy recommendations, this should give extra motivation to do so so you can avoid developing these serious health problems.
Perhaps most alarming for some CPAP users, though, is the data that indicates an eight percent death rate in confirmed COVID-19 cases for individuals with chronic respiratory diseases. This has been primarily understood to refer to individuals with COPD, rather than sleep apnea. However, many COPD patients use CPAP devices to control their symptoms.
As Healthline reports, in addition to improving sleep quality, “another benefit of CPAP therapy is a lower risk of mortality in people who have COPD and sleep apnea […] people with both conditions who used CPAP for more than two hours a night tended to live longer than those who used the therapy for fewer than two hours a night. Researchers also noted that CPAP was especially beneficial to people with COPD who were already on long-term oxygen therapy.”
While a sleep apnea patient without other underlying health concerns may not necessarily have more to worry about than the average person, it is clear that many CPAP users fall into one or more high-risk categories.
Key Health Guidelines to Follow
Regardless of whether you fall into a high-risk group or not, all CPAP users should follow recommended guidelines to avoid catching or transmitting the disease. Remember, even if the disease doesn’t pose much of a threat to you personally, it could be devastating for others you come in contact with.
There is no vaccine to counteract the coronavirus. Because the disease is spread from person to person, limiting your exposure to others is the best way to protect yourself and others. When possible, it is being recommended that people work from home and eliminate all non-essential travel and get-togethers — a vast departure from their normal routines.
According to the CDC, many of the best methods for coronavirus prevention are the same that should be used to avoid other diseases. “Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.”
Because many people only experience mild symptoms, you could be carrying the coronavirus and think you only have a normal cold. If you have possible coronavirus symptoms, you should stay home, cover coughs and sneezes, and wear a face mask in public.
Another key to preventing the transmission of this disease is cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces. Though the CDC focuses on areas like doorknobs and keyboards, this is one area where CPAP users should take some extra precautions.
CPAP Cleaning in the Time of Coronavirus
It is recommended that you clean your CPAP equipment on a daily basis. Sanitizing the mask, tubing, and humidifier water chamber prevents bacterial buildup, which can help you avoid respiratory infections. With COVID-19 transmission being such a widespread concern, CPAP cleaning should become even more important.
The easiest option for CPAP users is to use a sanitizing device like the SoClean 2 Automated CPAP Cleaner and Sanitizer or the VirtuCLEAN CPAP Mask Automatic Cleaner. These devices use activated oxygen (or ozone) to kill over 99 percent of bacteria and viruses in a 30-minute cleaning cycle. Simply hook your equipment up to the device, activate the cleaning cycle, and you’re good to go.
If you prefer a more low-tech solution, you can wash the mask, tubing, and water chamber in a solution of mild dish soap and warm water. Allow the parts to soak before rinsing them with clean water and allowing them to air dry. Make sure to hang your CPAP tubing so both ends are pointed toward the ground. This will allow any water to drain out.
This cleaning can be further supplemented with cleaning accessories like sanitizing wipes, which help remove dirt, skin oils, and other buildup from your mask, as well as specialty tubing hose cleaners that allow you to clean all the nooks and crannies inside your CPAP tubes.
In addition to following these daily cleaning guidelines, you should also strictly follow your manufacturer’s recommended replacement schedule for masks, tubing, and other CPAP components. Part of the reason for these replacement guidelines is because deterioration of the materials makes it harder for normal cleaning efforts to effectively eliminate all bacteria. Replacing air filters on a regular basis will also help keep airborne contaminants out of your CPAP system.
It may be helpful to order replacement products and cleaning supplies in advance, rather than waiting until the last possible minute to place your order. Supply chain disruptions and panic buying of other necessities have already shown that waiting until the last minute to make a purchase could result in not being able to get the items you want or need because they’ve already sold out.
Should You Keep Using Your CPAP Machine if You Get the Coronavirus?
Despite your best efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle and minimize your risk for contracting COVID-19, there is no guarantee that you will remain healthy and disease-free. So what if you do contract the coronavirus?
First, it helps to have some perspective. Most people who have contracted the disease have only experienced mild symptoms and have gone on to experience a full recovery. While many CPAP users fall under a higher-risk group, a confirmed diagnosis is not a death sentence by any means.
Thus far, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has not issued any direct recommendations about whether you should keep using your CPAP machine after a coronavirus diagnosis. There are simply too many unknowns about the disease at this time. Some think that using a CPAP machine could help alleviate breathing problems caused by the disease. Others think that using your CPAP device could actually spread the coronavirus to others in your home.
Because there are still many unknowns, your best option is to contact your medical provider and seek their input. Their understanding of your health and family situation will make them better positioned to decide whether you should keep using your CPAP machine or not.
Regardless of your CPAP usage, those who have been diagnosed with the virus should exercise caution to avoid spreading the disease to others. The CDC recommends that sick people stay home and avoid using public transportation. If your symptoms worsen, contact your doctor before going in for a visit so they can take steps to protect other patients at their office.
Those who are sick should also be mindful of those they live with. To once again quote the CDC, “As much as possible, you should stay in a specific ‘sick room’ and away from other people in your home. Use a separate bathroom, if available. […] Do not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people in your home. […] After using these items, wash them thoroughly with soap and water or put in the dishwasher.”
Remember, even if your symptoms don’t seem particularly severe, following these guidelines to keep the coronavirus from spreading could very well save lives. Take these recommendations seriously. Take time to rest, drink plenty of fluids, and find activities to keep yourself entertained without leaving the house.
Stay Safe & Healthy
The coronavirus has already had a dramatic impact on the world — and at this point, there is no telling just how long these disruptions will continue to affect our day to day routines. While the future may be uncertain, those who suffer from sleep apnea must continue to prioritize their sleep health during these trying times.
At No Insurance Medical Supplies, we want to help you stay up to date with all the equipment you need for effective therapy. All orders are currently being shipped out in the order that they are received. We are receiving additional products in our warehouse on a daily basis and sending out all shipments as soon as we can.
Despite these challenges, we remain committed to providing quality products at great prices. Whether you need a new CPAP machine or a replacement CPAP mask, we strive to make the equipment you need as affordable as possible. With free shipping on all orders over $89 and financing available for select purchases, you can have confidence that keeping up with your sleep apnea therapy won’t break the bank during a time when money might be a little tighter than usual.
While there is a lot going on right now that you can’t control, you can control how you manage your pre-existing health conditions — including sleep apnea. By following CDC guidelines for avoiding disease and managing your overall well-being, you will be able to get through the current crisis.