New TSA Rules Make Traveling with CPAP Difficult

Cpap and TravelThere is growing concern that CPAP machines that supply air directly into the lungs can become contaminated when placed in the same bins that hold shoes. My suggestion is that you pack your CPAP machine in parts in plastic bags so that it can be checked without contamination. Travelers are already accustomed to packing liquids in clear plastic bags. An alternative is to send your CPAP thru as checked luggage, but well padded in a hard sided suitcase. I suggest marking the case in large letters on the outside: MEDICAL EQUIPMENT! CPAP! FRAGILE! Checked baggage may also be opened and checked by the TSA, but clear labeling reduces the chances that your luggage will be opened. Not packing distilled water will also lower the chances of your checked luggage being opened. The airlines could score points with their passengers by providing distilled water to CPAP users while passing out beverages.

A terrible alternative is to leave your CPAP at home and do without when you travel. I know this frequently happens, but it is both dangerous and ill advised. Business travelers function at a lower level and vacationers deal with spousal snoring. More importantly, there is a six-fold increase in motor vehicle accidents with untreated apnea and a 300% increase in MVA’s involving serious injury. Major increases in heart attacks and strokes also occur. Having a major medical problem when you’re on the road makes the problems with carrying CPAP minimal by comparison.

A rational alternative is to consider using an oral appliance to treat apnea when traveling. This especially makes sense for the frequent traveler. Most patients who have tried both oral appliances and CPAP prefer using the oral appliance to CPAP machines. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine considers oral appliances to be equal to CPAP and a first line of treatment for mild to moderate apnea and for severe apnea in patients who do not tolerate CPAP. Carrying an oral appliance is hassle free, as they fit easily in a purse or shirt pocket and have the added advantage of letting the traveler sleep on a plane trip without his /her snoring disturbing others on the plane. On long flights you can arrive well rested after using you appliance while you sleep. In contrast, try to use your CPAP on a plane. Oral appliances have additional advantages of not having to clean hoses or find distilled water. The same toothbrush and toothpaste used to clean your teeth can also clean your appliance.

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Dr. Ira L. Shapira is a Diplomate and founding member of the Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine. He is a founding member of DOSA, the dental organization for sleep apnea and has been doing research and treating patients with sleep apnea utilizing oral appliances for over 25 years. He can be contacted at or at his office Delany Dental Care LTD in Gurnee, Illinois.