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The Humidification Implication

Humidification has become synonymous with CPAP therapy and most manufacturers now build the humidifier into the machine or include humidification as part of the initial package. However, patients today seldom understand the role of humidification in therapy comfort and compliance. This article will discuss the reasons for using humidification, issues arising from it and how to overcome these.

What is it?

Humidification is the evaporation of water into vapour which is then passed through your tubing with the pressurised air as a part of your therapy. It is said to relieve patients of CPAP-related symptoms including nasal congestion, dry and/or bleeding nose and sore throat affecting approximately 30-50% of OSA patients to improve compliance.2 The difference in comfort is especially noticeable for patients using a full face mask in colder climates and those with a preference for a cooler air conditioned room.

Issues and fixes

Issue

Solution

Why heated tubing?

Heated tubing is more expensive to purchase and maintain. Why can’t I use standard tubing?

Comfort!

Heated tubing allows the most efficient use of your machine. Warming up the air path between the machine and your mask allows the water to stay vapourised. It helps with stopping rainout.   

Rainout!

Having your CPAP humidifier setting too high results in excess water vapour in your tube cooling and coming out of your mask as liquid water. Understandably, patients are quite concerned when they wake up with a mouthful of water.  

Turn it down!

If the issue is excess water, turning down your humidification may go a long way in helping you wake up each each day without an unexpected pool of water in your mouth.

If turning down the humidification results in an uncomfortably dry throat or mouth, try increasing the temperature setting of your heated tubing. The warmer the air, the less likely you are to experience rainout.

Grubby Tank!

My tank is looking very yellow and dirty! I’m concerned about getting an infection.

Clean it!

The yellowness of your tank is the calcium build up that is left behind over time. The minerals in tap water are not vapourised and passed through the tube during treatment. To avoid the buildup, distilled or demineralised water is the best alternative. This can be purchased from most large supermarkets and health food stores.  

If the problem persists, immerse the chamber in a vinegar, water solution for a few hours every fortnight before washing it thoroughly. Make sure the vinegar is thoroughly rinsed out before you use it. It could smell a bit through the night if you don’t!  

References

  • Imazu, M. (2011). Humidification and Condensation During CPAP Treatment. Australasian Sleep Technologists Association.
  • Neill, A., Wai, H., Bannan, S., Beasley, C., Weatherall, M., & Campbell, A. (2003). Humidified nasal continuous positive airway pressure in obstructive sleep apnoea. European Respiratory Journal, 22(2), 258-262.