Healthcare professionals often recommend continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines for people living with obstructive sleep apnea. A CPAP machine delivers a steady flow of pressurized air through a hollow tube and into a mask to help you breathe while you sleep.

Using a well-maintained CPAP machine will not cause an upper respiratory infection. However, using an improperly cleaned machine may lead to an infection. That’s because CPAP machines use water to keep the air moist.

If you do not change the CPAP water regularly, it can create a hospitable environment for bacteria and other infectious organisms. It’s important to always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for cleaning and storing your device to reduce the risk of infection.

The use of a CPAP machine won’t prevent you from getting regular respiratory infections, so there’s also a chance you may develop symptoms of an unrelated respiratory infection.

If you develop a respiratory infection, like a seasonal cold or a sinus infection, unrelated to your CPAP machine, you can expect symptoms like a:

If you develop an infection from an improperly cleaned or maintained CPAP machine, you may be at risk of more severe infections, such as staphylococcus pneumonia or Legionnaires’ disease. Symptoms of these infections can include:

  • shortness of breath
  • high fever
  • chills
  • a cough that doesn’t improve
  • muscle aches
  • headaches
  • chest pain

If you have a respiratory infection that doesn’t seem to get any better, you may have an infection from a contaminated CPAP machine or an infection that’s entirely unrelated to your CPAP use. Call your healthcare professional if you do not feel better or if you develop symptoms like:

You may need treatment for a variety of respiratory infections, including COVID-19, influenza, pneumonia, or strep throat.

If your doctor prescribes a CPAP machine, then there is a medical reason. Usually, it’s to treat obstructive sleep apnea.

The use of a CPAP machine with a regular upper respiratory infection won’t hurt you, but it may be uncomfortable. However, it’s important to continue using the device to help keep your airways open during sleep.

If you’re concerned about your respiratory symptoms while using your CPAP machine, it’s a good idea to call the healthcare professional who oversees your CPAP therapy to discuss your concerns.

Although regular CPAP machine use does not link to increased respiratory infections, there have been cases of infections due to contaminated or improperly maintained CPAP devices.

Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s cleaning and maintenance instructions, and regularly clean all the parts of your machine, including the mask, water chamber, and flexible tubing. Bacteria can grow on all these surfaces.

It’s also important to regularly change the water that adds hydration to your CPAP machine. All sorts of organisms can live in water, and a 2017 case report showed that Legionnaire’s disease was associated with using a contaminated CPAP machine.

Additionally, take measures to maintain your overall respiratory health, especially with underlying respiratory conditions like obstructive sleep apnea. This can include taking steps such as:

It’s important to use a CPAP machine as prescribed and clean it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Using a CPAP won’t give you a respiratory infection, but bacteria and other organisms can grow on the different parts of your machine. People have developed various infections from improperly cleaned CPAP machines. That’s why it’s important to regularly clean your device.

It’s also possible to get a respiratory infection that has nothing to do with your CPAP use, but continue using your CPAP machine unless directed not to by a healthcare professional.

Discuss with your doctor if you have trouble wearing your device or if you feel you have an infection that may require other treatment, such as antibiotics.