Cold and congestion with the CPAP

by Vicki
(Montreal, Quebec)

I am a new user to CPAP (3 weeks!) and so far the therapy is going well. I have a Resmed H5i and S9 with humidifier.

Occasionally one or both nostrils get blocked and I either end up breathing through my mouth (I have nasal pillows and no chin strap) or rip off the unit for fear of suffocating.

I am normally very healthy but will be concerned IF I ever catch a cold. What does one do with a CPAP and congested nasal passages?

P.S. I am proud to report that my husband is able to sleep with me again!


What can a sleep apnea patient do if he has nasal congestion and uses CPAP with nasal pillows? Well...this is a good question, and I have some ideas for you:)

Nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing etc makes cpap use with a traditional or nasal pillow mask impossible!

It's bad enough having a cold, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body ache, fever etc, but losing sleep is the last thing we need to add to the suffering!

Getting adequate sleep actually is an important part of recovery as in stage 4 sleep, our body naturally produces antibodies to help fight off infection. When we cannot use our cpap and have poor sleep it just compounds our recovery.

However...if you are wearing a full face mask on the nights you have a cold or otherwise can't breathe through your nose, and use your machine, it would be least you could resolve your apnea events and sleep better as you recover from the cold.

So, you might want to consider buying a full face mask to keep on your nightstand to use when you otherwise would not be able to use your machine!

I know what you are thinking, Vicki...a full face way!

But I think its worth every penny of the cost not only in dollars, but in your overall well being and health. We all know that losing sleep is the pitts - but when we are sick AND losing sleep, its truly miserable.

The full face mask will help you to recover quicker from the cold (or whatever nose problems you have), it also allows to wake up feeling well enough to go to work, when otherwise you would be spending the day in bed!

Bottom line... It's not a bad idea to have a full face mask in your arsenal, for those occasions when you have a cold, allergies, or are otherwise congested.

Full face masks are more expensive than nasal masks or nasal pillows, so if you must buy one out-of-pocket, it might just as well be the cheaper one.

Another can use a simple saline nasal spray to treat your nasal congestion. There are many on the market, and the best I know is from Ocean, but you can ask your doctor which one is the best for you.

Remember too that using your humidifier when you have congestion is also very helpful!

So, there you have it - if you can relate, these suggestions are for you!

Best wishes for a healthy sleep!

I hope it helps. Don't be afraid to comment back.

Remy Thierry
Founder of Sleep Apnea Guide

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Sep 21, 2010
blocked nose
by: V icki

Thank you, Remy, for your good suggestions. I will ask my sleep specialist for confirmation, but your idea of a full face mask seems like a good suggestion even though my mind says "no way!"
I tried saline spray and it doesn't always work effectively right away. Would it help if I raised the humidity level?

Aug 21, 2012
Vicks vapo rub for nasal congestion
by: Ellen

I originally used a full face mask and found it a misery. Then I changed to a ResMed FX with chin strap because I am a mouth breather. Went along happily for quite a while til I got a cold. Despite cold tablets and saline sprays, towards morning I would always end up breathing through my mouth. Then my husband suggested adding Vicks vapo rub inside each nostril. Now the combination gets me through. I also have a heated tube and humidifier unit. Hope this helps.

Aug 30, 2012
I bought a full face mask to begin with and found it very comfortable.
by: Jellyfishattack

I was pretty sure that I breathed through my mouth at least part of the time I slept, so I decided to simply purchase a full face mask to begin my CPAP therapy.

I bought a ResMed Quattro FX, and after the first few nights found that it was actually very comfortable and often when my nose is partially congested, after about 5-10 minutes using the mask, I can breathe through my nose again.

I would definitely recommend a Quattro FX and will buy another when it wears out. I have slept peacefully through a few colds with it. My advice to everyone would be that you shouldn't be afraid of a full face mask, mine may look like a plastic and cloth spider, but it is actually very comfortable!

Sep 27, 2014
Congestion? Do not use VIc's
by: Anonymous

Vic's is petroleum based. I use a natural oil called OLBAS. It is essential oils of Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Cajeput, Wintergreen, Juniper and Clove.

It has several other uses...look it up.

Sep 28, 2014
Wasabi or Pseudoephedrine will decongest you.
by: Jellyfishattack

If you have a bad cold, I'd try taking something with pseudoephedrine in it, unless that medication would be contraindicated for you (I'm not an MD, but there are a few conditions that it can aggravate).

Pseudoephedrine works much, much better than the stuff they replaced it with to sell in 'cold medicine' in US & Canadian Pharmacies (it's much easier to buy in Canada though).

I find Aerius Dual Action, with Aerius & pseudoephedrine works great when I have a cold & it prevents me from getting a sinus and ear infection (which I always did get when I caught a cold until my family doctor told me to take an antihistamine and pseudoephedrine when I first got sick).

If you are suffering from less severe, temporary congestion, and don't think it warrants taking any medication, you could try eating wasabi paste on it's own, or on sushi, or you can eat wasabi peas. It works quite quickly for me, although I really like the taste. Eating raw ginger root will also clear you out, but I think that wasabi works much better.

Jan 21, 2016
Sinus blocking
by: A Colquhoun

Sometimes my sinuses block as soon as I put my Mask (full face) on. Then if I take of the mask and go and sit down somewhere the sinuses clear????

Is there a psychological factor going on here. It is frequent and frustrating

Apr 07, 2016

I get severely congested with CPAP if there is no filter on the unit. I buy a filter on line, that goes between the cpap machine and my hose. This has solved my problems. I need to change them every month or so.

May 06, 2016
by: DianneAnonymous

I have a serious problem with my nose running. I have been using the pillow mask, It has worsened since the air is cold. I have a heated humidifier and hose however the air is still cold going into my nose. In the morning and throughout the day my nose constantly runs. I did start of with a full face mask but I developed a nasty sore on my nose. I would love some suggestions I would be grateful. hu

Jul 06, 2017
Apple Cider Vinegar
by: Anonymous

I have had my CPAP machine for about a week. I've had two nights when I rested well. The other days I've had nasal congestion, light headache, runny nose and dry mouth (I drink tons of water during the day), itchy nose and horrific sneezing.

I inadvertently discovered that a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water stopped my bouts of sneezing, my nose no longer itches, the other symptoms have cleared as well.

I was taking allergy meds and Dayquil to alleviate my issues. I am not going to resume using the CPAP until I talk to the medical professionals who provided the machine. I think it's looney to not let people know about these aggravating side affects up front.

I value my sleep and am willing to give this a good try but not if these problems persist long range.

Aug 17, 2017
by: Anonymous

I am a female, and using the full face mask, my nose dries up so fast, i feel like i cant breath.

I am up and down all night, and end up sleeping all day, I might try taking an allergy pill tonight and see if it helps at all, very cumberson, and who knows what it is doing to my skin on my face, and my hair, well forget it.

I have severe sleep apnea, so have to figure this out.

Jan 18, 2018
by: Jeri

I have been using a new c pap since November. I had my
humidifier set at a 2 and working fine. This week I have been waking up in the morning with some drainage. Do I need to adjust the humidifier level. I have been using a So Cleaner also

Feb 10, 2018
by: Anonymous

Yeah had same problem last night. Have a face mask but I have a full beard. Doesn’t seal. Tried saline etc., and ended up not using it that night as well as others. I also have a sleep stealing infant. I’m more worried that the insurance company will stop paying for it. I hate that someone is monitoring my sleep and calls to threaten taking my machine away.

Feb 24, 2018
by: Doug

My nose blocks sometimes when I first put the mask on, on those nights I turn the humidity up slightly and then try breathing through my nose - after a short time your nose will start to clear, breathing g will get easier and you'll fall asleep.

Any slight discomfort is worth getting your sleep back because of the strain osa puts on your heart lungs brain and body in general.

Good luck and happy sleeping

Feb 24, 2018
How to help other sufferers of osa
by: Vicki C.

I have a feeling that sleep apnea is a genetic trait that runs in families. My late mother had it for sure but it was never diagnosed. I have it. Now I am assuming my adult son has it as well (his wife reports serious snoring).What is the best and kindest way to convince him to request a sleep apnea test from his doctor?

Apr 08, 2018
Sneezing and runny nose
by: Anonymous

I wake up and my nose feels ice cold then I sneeze and my nose runs all day.this happens a lot.i have a so clean clean it every day. still happens what can I do.i have severe sleep apnea.

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