Saturday
Sep082012

Travelling With CPAP / BiPAP

 

It's all very well making sure that your xPAP machine is set up nicely at home, in a good place beside your bed with the wires and tubing just how you want them, but it's another thing to get it right when you travel.

Over the years of travelling with my son's BiPAP and now with my CPAP coming along for the ride too, we've picked up a few tips that have helped - some of which we've learnt the hard way.

 

Spares 

These are self explanatory. If you have a spare breathing circuit then take it with you when you travel. Yes, they take up valuable space in your baggage but that's better than wishing you'd packed them. They don't have to be new, you could take along an old but still functioning set that you have. 

I take our old masks and tubing and sterilise them before we travel. I'll make a post about how I do this shortly.

 

 

We also take a spare BiPAP machine with us. That has the advantage of being able to operate in BiPAP and CPAP modes (although sadly not Auto CPAP / APAP) modes, so it could serve as a backup for either of us.

A small roll of Duct Tape is a good travelling companion as it can be used to make on the spot repairs to punctures.

 

Extension Lead

Don't leave home without it! 

For some unknown reason many hotels seem to only provide one power socket in the bedroom and it's located by a desk across the room. This is useless for plugging your PAP machine into as it's so far from the bed. So you'll need an extension lead in order to prevent a night of sleeping up the wrong end of the bed and balancing the CPAP machine on a suitcase, or dragging the bed across the room towards the power point.

 

I use a 10 metre coiled lead (with thermal cut out and an earth "trip"). I always fully uncoil it when using it. It has 4 sockets on it, which is great as usually we need to charge a phone or a laptop overnight too.

 

Water

If you use a humidifier, make sure you have suitable water to put in it. 

Cooled boiled water is good as the boiling should have killed any bacteria or viruses that were living in the water. 

One trip we forgot and the tap water wasn't suitable plus there wasn't a kettle to boil it in. So we went without the humidifiers and were pleasantly surprised at how different it felt to breathe.

Now neither of us use a humidifier, but we may appreciate some warm air when winter comes.

 

Bottled water (or even some home distilled water) is good to take along for the trip too, even if you get a 2 litre bottle and leave it by the bedside solely for the humidifier and rinsing your mask in the morning.

 

Travel Adapters


Essential if you are travelling to a place that uses a different power socket configuration. We use a universal adapter and plug our extension lead into it, giving us 4 UK sockets.

It's a good idea to check the fuse rating too, and avoid those "Shavers Only" adapters as their electrical rating isn't suitable. 

 

 

Battery Backup

 Call me paranoid, but we also take a 12v power supply and the appropriate leads for our PAP machines if we are travelling to a place where the power supply is temperamental. The battery can be anything from one of those car "Jump Start" packs to a dedicated CPAP battery such as the "Super CPAP Battery". The Super CPAP battery can sustain my Resmed S9 Autoset for at least 5 nights using pressures of 7.5 - 14 cmH2O. 

It's well worth doing some research into the type of battery that you are buying and calculate a rough idea of how long it'll last. Be aware that using a humidifier will draw more power from the battery, hence it won't last as long.

 

I'm going to be "Wild Camping" in a week or so (tentless camping in the forest) and I'm planning on taking my CPAP with me. (More about that in a post when (if) I return). (Edit - Read about Wild Camping with CPAP here)

A backup battery is a good idea, even if you aren't travelling. One night at home we had a power cut. I only realised because it became harder to breathe, but my son's BiPAP alarmed due to power loss, and his battery backed up Oximeter also sounded an alert. 

I was grateful that I had a battery (albeit a car jump charger) and a 12v lead for his BiPAP as his need is far greater than mine, he was back up and running in minutes, whereas I had to resort to side-sleeping for the duration of the power cut. 

My uncle (also a BiPAP user due to Post-Polio Syndrome) uses a battery backup all the time when travelling. His system switches to battery backup automatically if there's a power cut. The power supply where he travels isn't only prone to blackouts but it also suffers from "Brown-Outs" where the voltage isn't constant and dips or surges a lot, so his system protects his BiPAP from poor supply at the same time.

 

Other items that we've needed on our travels have been:

  • Fuses (for the plug)
  • A power brick transformer specifically for your PAP machine (the Respironics one packed up one night, so we used the one from the spare BiPAP)
  • CPAP Wipes

 The above items are things that I consider essential, although some only apply in certain circumstances. Each person will find the things for them that they consider essential. Some people use clips to hold the CPAP hose while they sleep, some use a dedicated holder, some will need a humidifier (and a spare) and I dare say that there are other things that people use that I haven't even considered.

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Reader Comments (9)

Another good blog with useful information :) I did one too a while ago on travelling with CPAP http://www.sleepapnoeablog.com/travelling-on-holidaysvacations-trips-with-cpap/

September 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKath Hope

Thanks for traveling with BiPAP blog. I have post polio, have been on BiPAP for over a year, found your specifics all useful.

September 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbjgrieve

thanks for sharing this post ....
a-pap

September 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteralextuter

"Very thorough post! I particularly was interested in the European converters for the plugs. On that subject, how was traveling on an airplane with the CPAP - I have heard it is very difficult at the security checkpoints, and am considering a trip overseas with my CPAP."

April 11, 2013 | Unregistered Commenternorah smith
Thanks for the insights! I've been a bipap user for over 16 years now. The machine have definitely changed over time! I have also travelled with my bipap all over the world ( and with oxygen too!). I never thought about getting an external battery pack for the bipap. That may be good idea! I've always wonder if you can use bipap on the airplane? Probably only in business class I assume?
July 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLoretta
Loretta - On long haul flights you are usually able to use CPAP/BiPAP as long as you get permission prior to flying from the airline direct.
July 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKath Hope
I know of a couple of people that fly with BiPAP and don't have a problem.

As Kath says, it's best to declare it first. I do know someone that describes the BiPAP as "similar to a nebuliser" to put people's mind at rest when checking in.

There are also cards that you can buy to explain what the machine is that can be carried on your person and also attached to the bag of the machine.
July 22, 2013 | Registered CommenterHypnagogia Blog
I have been on Bipap therapy for over 5 years now and still appreciate the new insight on this blog. This trip has been a longer one this time and I spent an aggravating amount of time packing and unpacking every other night or so for 3 weeks. With central sleep apnea I cannot sleep with out my equipment, both uncomfortable and impossible to sleep without it now but also dangerous with central sleep apnea. My supplier provider did loan me a portable concentrator, which was wonderful, but my questionis this. Has anyone out there found a Bipap/concentrator combo in one machine, or any ideas that make the setup and packing the next morning any easier. It as just become a big pain on this extended trip, almost enough to not want to do any trip of this length again. Thanks in advance, Rick
July 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRick Dings
Awesome. I'm wondering if the bipap would work with the electric plugin on the plane? Or will they need to run on battery? I tried to insert my portable oxygen concentrator on Air Canada flight and it would not charge. :( I'm sure I'd get a lot of states if I worse my mask... Haha.
July 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLoretta

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