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Can you take cold medicine if you have sleep apnea?

December 3, 2020


If you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, you know how life-changing the disorder can be. Anyone on CPAP Therapy who has experienced using the machine while suffering from a runny nose will know just how horrible and irritating the common cold can be to those who have sleep apnea. Here are our tips on apnea and the flu. 


What Is Sleep Apnea?


Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that causes breathing to stop and start during sleep continually.


Sleep apnea refers to a range of disorders, but the most common is obstructive sleep apnea when your throat muscles repeatedly relax and block airways during sleep. When the soft tissues in your throat, such as your tongue and soft palate, temporarily relax, your airway is narrowed or closed, and breathing is momentarily cut off.


Will A Cold Affect My CPAP Machine? 


The basic answer is yes, a cold or the flu will affect your CPAP machine’s efficiency and effectiveness. The device is meant to provide you with a pressurized air stream to prevent airway obstruction in otherwise normally functioning lungs. 


When your breathing pathways are blocked, it is difficult for the CPAP to function to full effectiveness. Think of it as having an allergy, like hay fever. A stuffy nose will block airflow to the lungs. 


There are also secondary effects. Any mucus residue on a CPAP mask may cause harmful bacteria to multiply and infect you with an even worse strain of flu. A coughing fit during sleep may also cause a sore throat to worsen if incoming high air pressure accelerates through your mouth.


Here’s the most important thing about sleep apnea and colds: Please do not attempt to stop using your CPAP machine if you have a cold. Doing so will likely make your infection even worse and increase your recovery time. Medical website Resmed has some helpful remedies that can be tried to make treatment more comfortable when you do have a cold:


  • Using a saline nasal spray to add moisture to the sinus passages can relieve swelling and help you breathe easier.
  • Decongestants can help, although these can take a while to work, so they need to be used early enough to take effect by bedtime.
  • An over-the-counter spray can decrease inflammation in the nasal passages and help reduce the swelling of the nasal mucosa. 


Is It Safe To Take Cold Medication If I Have Sleep Apnea?


Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to this question. Sleep apnea isn’t one specific disorder; instead, it’s an umbrella term encompassing conditions, with central and obstructive sleep apnea being the most common.


Different drugs and treatments will have different effects. The best thing to do would be to contact a medical professional to work out if a prescribed or over-the-counter cold medication is right for you. 


It’s also worth noting that sleep apnea can cause multiple other problems, including high blood pressure. Those patients with sleep apnea and high blood pressure must be very careful about which drugs and remedies they can take. Failure to do so could have fatal results. Again, consult a medical professional to work out which drugs may be right for you. 


How To Protect Yourself From The Common Cold & Flu


Of course, the best way to protect yourself is to avoid catching a cold or flu virus altogether. The Center For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC) recommends you wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds throughout the day. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. And finally, stay away from people who are sick.

How Advanced Homecare Can Help You


If you or a loved one feel sleepy over the festive period, please check our guide for spotting sleep apnea. If you’ve been diagnosed, we can help you.


Since opening as a small team of three back in 2005, our mission at Advanced Homecare Online has been to provide the very best sleep apnea Treatments for our patients. 


We specialize in one-on-one relationships. Our office team members and Patient Care Instructors are committed to educating their patients about their condition and understanding each patient’s specific needs.


We’re proud of what we do. Learn how we can help treat your sleep apnea now! 

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