CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machines are one of the most researched, time-honored, popular, and successful therapies for managing obstructive sleep apnea. In the past, CPAP machine users who traveled frequently complained that their home machines were too bulky, awkward, or cumbersome for traveling, especially when flying or trekking out into nature. Thankfully, a new solution has been created to make traveling with a CPAP machine much more convenient. Here is everything you need to know about travel CPAP machines.
Not long ago, home CPAP and BiPAP machines were as big as a coffee maker. Although they’ve gotten smaller over the years, they are still too awkward to fit into carry-on luggage and require a different case for the machine, mask, hose, and humidifier. Luckily, the travel CPAP machine has arrived and it’s perfect for the frequent traveler, camper, or recreational boater.
Now you can purchase a scaled-down, lightweight, travel CPAP that’s no bigger than a few decks of cards or a soda can. Travel CPAP machines function with all the performance features of your home device and are just as quiet. These small CPAPs are designed to make your entire travel process easier. They slip comfortably into carry-on luggage and help you zip through airport security. Overall, the countless perks of these portable CPAP machines have truly revolutionized traveling for CPAP users.
Navigating Air Travel With Your Travel CPAP
Although you can certainly check your CPAP machine during air travel, there’s always the risk that your luggage will be lost or at least delayed. For this reason, travelers are always advised to carry-on medical equipment with them on the flight, including travel CPAP machines.
Because your portable CPAP machine is considered a medical device, the airlines won’t count it as one of your allotted carry-on bags. It’s not a bad idea to attach a luggage tag to the bag stating that it’s a medical device. To play it safe, many CPAP users bring their prescription with them in the rare instance that they’ll be asked to show it at airport security.
Now with new travel CPAP machines, you no longer need the extra carry-on bag. These travel CPAPs are small and lightweight which makes them ideal for carry-on luggage. In addition, you can buy separate carrying cases to hold your travel CPAP machine, CPAP mask, and hose. Each carrying case easily slips into your regular carry-on baggage
Getting Through Security
When you move through airport security, TSA regulations require that your travel CPAP machine go through x-ray screening, just like your carry-on bag. The x-ray machine will not harm your portable CPAP machine, but it will have to be removed from its case, just as computers do. As long as you follow proper protocol, there is no need to worry about this process. Travel CPAP machines are quite common in airport security lines, so most TSA agents are very familiar with them. If you still have concerns, take extra precaution by bringing your prescription with you in case of an emergency.
Once you arrive at security, simply take the travel CPAP machine out of its bag and place it in the bin provided for screening. In some cases, a TSA agent may swab the machine for explosives. That’s routine and nothing you should worry about. If you’re concerned about keeping your machine clean during this process, you are permitted to cover the machine with a clear plastic bag.
Want to use your travel CPAP machine in-flight? Make sure you check with your airline. Individual airline policies for using travel CPAPs during a flight may vary.
Packing Smart With Your Travel CPAP
Whether you’re traveling by plane, car, or RV, a little advance planning can help your trip go much more smoothly with your travel CPAP machine. Your travel CPAP will most likely have its own built-in travel features, but you may want to consider tucking a few other handy items into your travel case. Here are important accessories to remember to pack.
- Battery: A battery pack is probably a good idea, especially if you’ll be camping or traveling somewhere with limited power sources.
- Voltage Adapter: This is probably not necessary unless you’re traveling internationally and have an older, non-portable CPAP machine. Newer travel CPAP machines typically support a range of US and European voltages from 110V to 220V.
- International Plugs: While your travel CPAP machine may support both voltage types, you will still need to pack an international plug that fits the outlets of your destination nation.
- Extra Mask: If you have an extra mask, grab it. You’d hate to have your mask break and spend part of your trip looking for a replacement.
Should You Pack Your Humidifier?
Although it’s up to you, you don’t have to pack your humidifier. Some travel CPAPs have humidifiers built right into the machine. If the model you have has a detachable humidifier and you want to pack light, you can leave the humidifier at home. Keep in mind that not using your humidifier may lead to a drier nose in the morning.
Also, keep in mind that a change in altitude may affect your portable CPAP machine. For example, depending on how far above sea level you are, your machine may deliver less pressure. Before you increase the settings on your machine, refer to your users’ manual or call the manufacturer. Many newer travel CPAP machines automatically compensate for changes in altitude.
The Importance of Bringing Your Travel CPAP
Before travel CPAP machines were on the market, the dilemma of whether to bring your CPAP machine was much more common. Packing a large and inconvenient item on a trip (especially a short one), seemed like too much of a hassle. Those days of debating and fretting over what to do are long gone. Ease and convenience are the name of the game for travel CPAP machines today and that doesn’t leave much reason to leave it behind.
Another point to remember is that when you’re traveling, you want to enjoy yourself. Sometimes it’s hard enough to sleep in a new place, so you may appreciate the peace of mind you’ll get from sticking to your regular CPAP routine. Sleep apnea disrupts your rest and prevents you from feeling refreshed the next day. You’ll feel better and probably get a better night’s sleep if you take you bite the bullet and pack your small CPAP.
Now that you’re an expert on all travel regulations and tips, you’re ready to pack your travel CPAP machine and hit the road!. Whether you’re a globetrotter or just take the occasional trip for pleasure or business, the new portable CPAP machines are the perfect solution when you take to the air or the open road. Bon voyage!
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Author: MaryAnn DePietro, CRT is a medical writer and licensed respiratory therapist with over a decade of clinical experience.