CPAP Machine Humidifier: Do I Need It?

 In Masks, Machines, & Cleaners, Troubleshooting / CPAP Care

One of the most common questions new CPAP users ask is “Do I need a humidifier?”

Humidifiers aren’t just another accessory to your device; they serve an important purpose for some users, which we will explore in this blog post.

What is a Humidifier?

CPAP humidifiers are an optional chamber component of CPAP machines that hold distilled water. For heated humidifiers, there is a hot plate below the chamber that heats the water and turns it into humidity and is delivered to the airway. Most of CPAP machines on the market today have a heated humidifier that is integrated into the machine or is easily attached/detached. There are settings that you can control, such as the temperature of the heated tubing.

Dryness is one of the most common side effects of CPAP therapy that leaves a lot of patients with congestion or sore throat. A lot of patients find CPAP therapy more comfortable with humidifiers because the humidified air relieves dryness and reduces irritation in the sinus. If you sleep with your mouth open, you may experience dry mouth and throat due to air escaping through the open mouth. An alternative solution to open mouth sleepers is a full-face mask or a chinstrap.

When would I need a humidifier?

  • If you are over the age of 60
  • If you are on 2 or more prescription medications
  • If you have chronic mucosal disease, sneezing, or postnasal drip
  • If you had your uvula removed
  • If you prefer to sleep in a cold room
  • If CPAP makes you/your…
    • sneeze
    • mouth dry
    • nasal passage burn
    • disrupts your sleep from any of above symptoms
    • nose runny
    • nose stuffy
    • wake up with mucous in your mouth and throast

This list of symptoms can all be resolved with proper use of a heated CPAP humidifier! Moisture, especially when heated, well soften up the nasal passage, allowing for comfort.

Quick Facts

  • Patients over 60 years of age are 5x more likely to need heated humidification
  • CPAP users taking 2 or more medications are 6x more likely to need heated humidification
  • CPAP users with chronic mucosal disease are 4x more likely to need heated humidification
  • Patients who sleep in a cold room are most likely to going to experience condensation - CPAP takes the air in the bedroom and delivers it into your nostrils and mouth (if wearing a full face mask). If the air in your room is too cold or dry for your sinuses, it is likely going to cause irritation.

When would I not need a humidifier?

  • If you are traveling, you may want to leave the humidifier at home.
  • If you are in a humid environment, extra humidity may not be necessary.
  • If you are a long term CPAP user, you may feel it just unnecessary and may be completely fine without it.
ResMed's AirSense 10 with integrated heated humidifier

Extra Tips + Reminders for the Humidifier

Certain seasons/weathers may require the use of extra humidity through the airway, and in others, without it may be fine, so you don’t have to use humidifiers year round.

Lower the heat setting if you find your humidifier out of water before waking up. The higher the pressure of your device and the humidifier temperature, the more water is used.

With heated humidifiers, you may need a heated tubing as well to prevent condensation in the tubing. “Rainout” can happen when that condensation builds up in the tube, causing loud noise, and can sometimes even splash your face. Check out the blog post on tubing to find the right one for you. If it “rains out” due to high heat settings, turn the heat down a bit. Another way to avoid excess condensation is to use a CPAP tubing cover to insulate the hose. Don’t overfill the water chamber because it may boil and spill over water.

Keep in mind that when you do have a humidifier, you must clean it regularly and properly to prevent the risk of infection with mold build-up in such moist area. You must also fill it up every night with fresh water for sanitary reasons.

As always, remember to fill the humidifier with distilled/purified water. This is not only for the longevity of your water chamber, but also because whatever water you put in there is what is going to turn into the air you breathe into your lungs. Therefore, never use harsh chemicals, bleach, antibacterial or scented soaps to wash the humidifier. You can use mild soap and warm water to properly clean it. Make sure to let it air dry after washing.

Stay compliant in your CPAP therapy by making your experience as comfortable as possible!

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