US Travel Tips for CPAP Users
Tracy R. Nasca
Whether you are traveling for business or pleasure, it is important that you sleep well while away from the comfort and routine of your own bedroom. To assure the best chance of achieving restorative sleep, the following tips for traveling with CPAP are suggested.
Ask your doctor to provide you with a prescription for CPAP, heated humidifier, mask, filters and tubing. Keep the RX in your wallet or CPAP carrying case in the event you find yourself outside of your insurance network and need to buy any equipment that might be damaged or stolen while you are away from home.
Ask your doctor to provide a letter of medical necessity on his/her letterhead. This is especially important should you require use of your CPAP machine while traveling in flight or on a train or other transportation mode. The letter should read something like:
Letter of Medical Necessity
My patient has been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea and requires CPAP therapy with heated humidification to permit adequate compliance to their necessary therapy.
Doctor’s name Address Telephone
What to pack
Whether your final sleeping destination is a hotel, condo or private home, always carry a 12 foot extension cord in your CPAP carrying case. Available electrical outlets at bedside may be used by other items you need such as lamps and clocks. Additional outlets may be too far removed as to accommodate the electrical cord of your CPAP machine.
Getting through security check points
Rules change every now and again, but for the most part, CPAP is well known in the travel industry. With air travel, generally speaking, you will be asked to place your CPAP and humidifier with their electric cords in the plastic tub. While some airlines may send them through x-ray, most will pull them aside for a quick inspection that only takes a minute. Place the devices in the tub. When it gets close to the point where it goes through x-ray, simply alert security that you have a CPAP. They appreciate the heads up and it makes the process go quicker.
Keep your tubing and mask in your carrying on case. These are not inspected and you want to keep them clean, sanitary and safe from handling by others.
When the nightstand in a hotel is full with phone, lamp and clock, there is often no room to place your CPAP machine. This might be resolved by pulling out the top drawer of the night stand and placing CPAP there. If this is not an option, most hotels, upon request, can provide you with a portable stand with round tray top such as used in the delivery of food service.
If you need an extension cord, one can be provided by the hotel upon request.
Water for heated humidifiers
If you have the luxury of taking your own bottle of distilled water, do so. If you are packing light, you can buy water at your destination. Although distilled water is preferred for longevity of your equipment, using tap water for short periods of time will not be harmful to you or your water chamber.
Using CPAP on the plane, bus, train or boat
Each transportation mode and company has their own rules and regulations. Well before travel date, contact your travel carrier and ask what their requirements are. You may need a letter of medical necessity from your doctor. They may or may not be able to provide an electrical outlet so you may need to bring your own battery operated unit. Should they have electric outlets available, these seats may be in limited supply and need booking well in advance.
Comfort away from home
You want to be well rested and alert to fully enjoy your business trip or vacation. Leaving CPAP at home deprives you of this opportunity and puts your health at risk. Sleeping in strange surroundings may be challenging. You never know what kind of sleeping accommodations you will find at your destination. The bed you sleep in may be more or less comfortable than you own bed. Pillows offered at hotels are often oversized, thick and lofty but not the best choice for CPAP users. You may want to consider taking your own bed pillow, that final piece that assures the best possible quality restorative sleep. There are many CPAP bed pillows on the market that fit easily in a suitcase or CPAP carry case. If you are a stomach sleeper and require little elevation, hotel pillows may be soft and lofty which can block exhalation ports putting us at risk for rebreathing CO2.
Safe and happy travels to you. CPAP, don’t leave home without it!
The information included on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Contact your physician or health care provider when you have health related questions. Never disregard or delay medical advice because of information you have obtained on this site.