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Can CPAP Cause Pneumonia?
What You Should Know

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The risks of using Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines, particularly the possibility of developing pneumonia, have raised concerns among users. But what factors contribute to this risk? Proper maintenance and hygiene play crucial roles, but how exactly do they prevent infections?

Understanding the key practices and precautions can make all the difference in ensuring safe CPAP usage. What steps must you take to protect yourself while benefiting from your CPAP machine?

Schmidt & Clark lawyers have worked on numerous cases related to CPAP therapy. Today, we’ll talk about how safe CPAP devices are, if they cause pneumonia, and what your options are if CPAP devices negatively affect your health. 

Quick Summary

  • According to some studies, CPAP can increase the risk of pneumonia in people with sleep apnea, leading to an increased risk of respiratory infections.
  • CPAP causes pneumonia due to bacterial contamination of the device.
  • Researchers discovered a 20% increase in pneumonia risk among subjects using a CPAP machine.

Does Obstructive Sleep Apnea Cause Pneumonia?

CPAP Machine Sleep Apnea beside the bed

Obstructive sleep apnea doesn’t cause pneumonia, although it does slightly increase the risk of developing it. However, several studies found that CPAP equipment used to treat sleep apnea can contribute to developing pneumonia.

The connection between severe sleep apnea and pneumonia depends on factors such as age and other existing medical conditions. People with more severe obstructive sleep apnoea are at a higher risk of pneumonia than those with mild sleep apnea.

A nationwide population-based study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that 9% of the study group with sleep apnea who received CPAP therapy developed pneumonia [1].

Researchers behind this study believe sleep apnea patients find it more difficult to cough mucus in case of lung infection, which leads to higher aspiration.

Related Article: Philips CPAP Machine Recall Lawsuit Update

“Patients with obstructive sleep apnea were reported to have a higher risk of pulmonary aspiration of pharyngeal contents during sleep. Moreover, immune perturbations secondary to disrupted sleep may render them susceptible to the invasion of pathogens. Both could potentiate the emergence of pneumonia.” Sleep apnea and risk of pneumonia: a nationwide population-based study

Another study done on 34,100 patients over the course of 11 years found that 8.09% of subjects developed pneumonia.

The researchers found there was a 20% increase in pneumonia risk for subjects who were using a CPAP machine [2]. Considering that pneumonia can have a fatal outcome, this is a big increase.

Related Article: Can CPAP Machine Couse Cancer?

How Does CPAP Therapy Cause Pneumonia?

A man sleeping with his CPAP Mask on

CPAP therapy can cause pneumonia via humid and warm air that may contain certain microorganisms if the device is not regularly cleaned.

CPAP has some components that make it more comfortable to use, such as the heated humidifier and tubing. They make the air warm and moist to prevent the mouth and nose from being dry.

The problem is that certain organisms thrive in humid environments, such as fungi, yeast, and mold. All of these can be harmful to the patient and cause irritation and even infection in the lower respiratory tract, increasing the risk of infection.

As the CPAP machine uses air pressure to blow air into the body, these organisms can go straight to your lungs and can cause bronchitis, respiratory, and sinus infections.

Apart from these pathogens, aspiration can also cause CPAP pneumonia. Aspiration happens when you inhale something apart from air, such as saliva and mucus. Sleep apnea increases aspiration because the airway blockage lets liquids go into the lungs and impairs the cough reflex.

When the fluids enter the lungs, the bacteria in them can lead to infection and eventually pneumonia.

How to Prevent Pneumonia When Using CPAP Equipment?

A woman front view sleeping with her CPAP and a close up image of Sleep Apnea on a bed

To prevent pneumonia when using a CPAP machine, you must clean it regularly using CPAP cleaning supplies or hot water and dish soap, ideally weekly or daily, if you are sick. If your local water supply is unreliable, it's best to use purified water. Regular cleaning is essential to prevent breathing difficulties and other complications.

There are several ways patients with sleep apnea can prevent getting pneumonia:

  1. Don’t let water remain in the CPAP machine for more than a few days — CPAP machine users should dry the machine thoroughly after cleaning.
  2. Use distilled water — Distilled water will prevent infection and the accumulation of minerals.
  3. Replace filters and masks as recommended by the manufacturer — Masks should be replaced every three months and filters every two weeks or at least once a month.
  4. CPAP machine sharing isn’t recommended — Don’t buy used CPAP equipment.
  5. Monitor the severity of sleep apnea experienced and consult with a healthcare provider to adjust CPAP settings as needed — This can help reduce the risk of pneumonia.

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What kind of infections can you get from a CPAP treatment?

Infections that you can get from a CPAP treatment include a sinus infection, allergic reaction, bronchitis, lung inflammation, and respiratory infections. This happens due to harmful bacteria in dirty CPAP devices.

Is it safe to use a CPAP while sick?

Yes, it’s safe to use CPAP while sick, as long as the humidifier water chambers and machine filters are kept clean. Consulting with a sleep medicine specialist can help manage these risks effectively.

Why do people with sleep apnea have increased pneumonia risk?

People with sleep apnea have an increased pneumonia risk due to the use of CPAP machines, which can harbor bacteria if not properly cleaned.

Hire a Lawyer to Help Your Case

A CPAP device can greatly help people with sleep apnea. However, these devices can also pose health risks and lead to negative long-term health outcomes. Some CPAP machines have even been recalled due to the increased cancer risk.

If you’ve suffered health consequences after using a CPAP device, you should consult a lawyer. 

Schmidt & Clark, LLP lawyers will give a free case evaluation and explain if you have grounds for a legal case. Contact us today and get a professional opinion.