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Six things to know so that your CPAP machine can become a trusted travel companion

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP, is a common and very effective treatment for Sleep Apnea.   Some people on CPAP find the machines somewhat clunky and are reluctant to travel with them. As we head into spring breaks and summer vacations, you may be wondering how traveling with this equipment is possible. I’ve done my best to answer basic questions that will help you rest comfortably while on the road.

Can CPAP machines be in carry-on luggage?

Yes. In fact, it is recommended not to check your CPAP machine because of concerns that it could get lost or damaged. Fortunately, because CPAP is a medical device, the bag does not count towards your carry-on quota. Just be prepared that when you go through security, according to TSA, CPAP machines will be x-ray screened, at a minimum. You can see more information on TSA’s site.  It may be helpful to take with you a prescription for your CPAP device or a letter from your physician stating the medical necessity of the device.

Can CPAP machines be used on my flight?

It is case by case. Not all airlines allow CPAP to be used on board. Some even require that you notify them in advance (some list 48 hours) if you plan to use your CPAP machine onboard. Before you travel, look up the policy of the airline that you will be using. Even if an airline permits the use of CPAP, be sure to also confirm if they have outlets available on board – a site like SeatGuru indicates as such. Some airlines do not have outlets available or only have outlets in business or first class. If outlets are not available, it will be important to get a battery to power your CPAP machine.

What do I do if I feel that my CPAP machine is too big to travel with?

There are travel sized CPAP machines available that are significantly smaller than the standard sized machines. Popular small machines are the Z1 and Transcend machines. There are numerous options available so be sure to check around and see what may work best for your needs.

Travel sized machines often do not have traditional humidifiers so it is important to see if you can tolerate using CPAP without the humidifier in advance. If you do not want to buy a smaller travel sized machine, check to see if your current CPAP machine has a detachable humidifier (not all models do). If yours does, you can detach the humidifier when you travel to cut down on space.

And if the idea of traveling with one more bag is just too much, talk to your doctor to see if another treatment option would work for you while you travel.

What do I do if I am traveling somewhere without electricity?

Travel sized CPAP machines often come with a battery for an extra cost. Most batteries do not last more than one night. Depending on the length of your trip, you may need to buy multiple batteries.

You can also consider buying a battery pack for your current CPAP machine, as these options are also available. Keep in mind that if you aren’t using the humidifier, it will save on battery life.

What if I am traveling internationally?

Most CPAP machines automatically adjust voltage, so all you need is a plug adapter.

Will a travel CPAP machine be covered by my health insurance?

Insurance carriers will usually only cover the cost of one CPAP machine. Adding a travel machine will be your expense.

Safe travels!

 

 

 

 

Rob Kalfus

Robert Kalfus, MD received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and went on to complete a combined MD/MBA program at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Rutgers University. During residency in Internal Medicine at Georgetown in Washington, DC, Dr. Kalfus was first exposed to the field of Sleep Medicine. He enjoyed seeing patients experience an improved quality of life with treatment of their sleep disorders. With the desire to work in a field with the potential for quick patient improvement, Dr. Kalfus returned to Philadelphia to pursue a fellowship in Sleep Medicine at Hahnemann University Hospital/Drexel University College of Medicine. He is a physician at The Center for Sleep & Wake Disorders in Chevy Chase, Maryland. In his free time, you can find him bowling, playing golf, watching football, and spending time with his wife and two young children at the local park.

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