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Portable CPAP: Travel with the Smallest CPAP Machines

Portable CPAP MachineCPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machines are one of the most researched, time-honored, popular and successful therapies for managing obstructive sleep apnea. They work by drawing regular room air through a tube, into a lightweight nasal mask, pushing open your airway allowing air into your lungs to keep your body oxygenated during sleep. CPAP machine users who travel frequently have long complained that their home machines were too bulky, awkward or cumbersome for traveling, especially when flying or trekking out into nature.

Travel CPAP

However, today, a completely new breed of travel-friendly portable CPAP machines is arriving on the market that will let you leave your home device right where it belongs: at home. These new models are lighter, sleeker, and often half the size of their home counterparts. Plus, they’re packed with advanced convenience features created especially for the frequent traveler, camper or recreational boater.

“CPAP machine size has come a long way”

Not long ago, home CPAP and Bipap machines were as big as a coffee maker. They’ve gotten smaller over the years but until recently, they were still too awkward to fit into carry-on luggage and required a different case for the machine, mask, hose, and humidifier.

Thankfully, the portable CPAP machine has arrived.

Today, you can purchase a scaled-down, lightweight, travel-friendly CPAP device that’s no bigger than a few decks of cards or a soda can.  There are even new travel CPAP machines with all the performance features of your home device, and just as quiet.  These new portable CPAP machines slip comfortably into carry-on luggage some with their own discreet carrying case. They’re designed to help you travel light and zip through airport security. In other words, portable CPAP technology has really taken off.

Traveling with CPAP – What you need to know

Although you can certainly check your CPAP machine during air travel, there’s always the risk that your luggage will be lost or at least delayed. For this reason, travelers are always advised to carry on their medical equipment with them on the flight, including CPAP machines.  Since your CPAP machine is considered a medical device, the airlines won’t count it as one of your allotted carry-on bags. It’s not a bad idea to attach a luggage tag to the bag stating that it’s a medical device. And to play it safe, many CPAP users bring their prescription with them in the rare instance that they’ll be asked to show it at airport security.

Now with new portable CPAP machines, you no longer need the extra carry on bag.  These machines are small and lighter-weight.   In addition, you can also buy separate carrying cases to hold your machine, CPAP mask, and hose that can easily slip into your regular carry-on.

Breeze through security.

When you move through airport security, regulations require that your CPAP machine go through x-ray screening, just like your carry-on bag. The x-ray machine will not harm your CPAP machine, but it will have to be removed from its case, just as computers do.

Simply take the CPAP machine out of its bag and place it in the bin provided for screening. In some cases, a TSA agent may swab the machine for explosives. That’s routine, and nothing you should worry about.   If you’re concerned about keeping your machine clean during this process, you are permitted to cover the machine with a clear plastic bag.  CPAP machines are quite common in airport security lines, and most TSA agents are very familiar with them. But again, you should consider carrying your prescription, in case they have any questions.

Want to use the portable CPAP machine in-flight? Just make sure you check with your airline. Individual airline policies for using CPAP during a flight may vary.

Before you go: pack smart with your portable CPAP.

Whether you’re traveling by plane, car or RV, a little advance planning can help you travel like a pro with your portable CPAP machine. It will most likely have its own built-in travel features, but you may want to consider tucking a few other handy items into your travel case:

  • Battery: A battery pack is probably a good idea, especially if you’ll be camping or traveling somewhere with limited power sources.

  • Voltage Adapter: Probably not necessary unless you’re traveling internationally and have an older, non-portable CPAP machine. Newer CPAP machines typically support a range of US and European voltages from 110V to 220V.

  • International Plugs: While your CPAP machine may support both voltage types, you will still need to pack an international plug that fits the outlets of your destination nation.

  • Extra Mask: If you have an extra mask, grab it. You’d hate to have your mask break and spend part of your trip looking for a replacement.

Should you pack your humidifier?

Although it’s up to you, you don’t have to pack your humidifier. Some CPAP machines have humidifiers built right into the machine. But if the model you have has a detachable humidifier and you want to pack light, you can leave the humidifier at home, although you may wake up with a drier nose than usual.

Also, keep in mind that a change in altitude may affect your portable CPAP machine. For example, depending on how far above sea level you are, your machine may deliver less pressure. However, before you increase the settings on your machine, refer to your users’ manual or call the manufacturer of your machine. Many newer machines automatically compensate for changes in altitude.

Do you even need a CPAP machine on the road?

Before portable CPAPs, this was a common concern. What if it’s just a short trip? What if I’ll be gone a week or more? Although going a night or two without your CPAP machine probably won’t cause any lasting complications, the new portable options mean there’s never a good reason to go without your therapy, even for just one night.

Remember, when you’re traveling you want to enjoy yourself. Sometimes it’s hard enough to sleep in a new place and you may appreciate the peace of mind you’ll get from sticking to your regular CPAP routine. Sleep apnea disrupts your rest and prevents you from feeling refreshed the next day. You’ll feel better and probably get a better night’s sleep if you take your machine.

So now you’re ready to go like a pro. Whether you’re a globetrotter or just take the occasional trip for pleasure or business, the new portable CPAP machines can help take away the questions or concerns when you take to the air or the open road. 

Source: American Sleep Association,

Call YourCare Medical Supply today and schedule a free 15 minute CPAP Sleep Apnea travel consultation with one of our Respiratory Therapists.  The staff at YourCare looks forward to helping you with all of your CPAP needs.

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YourCare Medical Supply is Medicare Accredited and offers CPAP Supplies, Mobility Equipment, Lift Chair Recliners and CPAP Equipment in Rochester, a central location for Penfield, Fairport, and Webster.
Phone (585) 377-5350 Address 2160 Penfield Rd,
Penfield, NY 14526
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