It’s that time of the year again: Pumpkin spice lattes, apple picking, curling up by the fireplace…oh yeah, and an abundance of illnesses and infections like the flu, the common cold and pneumonia, all of which are more prevalent in the colder weather.For sleep apnea patients who use CPAP therapy, the gold-standard treatment for this sleep disorder, the risk of getting sick is even higher, as dirty CPAP masks and reservoirs are breeding grounds for mold, bacteria and viruses.
Sleep apnea and CPAP therapy are risk factors for pneumoniaIn 2014, a team of Taiwanese researchers set out to investigate the link between sleep apnea, CPAP therapy and pneumonia, a potentially deadly respiratory infection that affects the lungs. They found that adults with sleep apnea had a 20% increased risk of being diagnosed with pneumonia than the control group. And for those who used CPAP therapy, this risk factor increased to 32%.“This study showed that sleep apnea is an independent risk factor for incident pneumonia,” wrote Dr. Vincent Yi-Fong Su & Dr. Kun-Ta Chou, Department of Chest Medicine, Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan, with coauthors, according to a press release. “Our results also demonstrated an exposure-response relation in that patients with more severe sleep apnea may have a higher risk of pneumonia than patients with sleep apnea of milder severity.”
What are some explanations for this?There are a few different theories that may explain this increased risk of pneumonia among sleep apnea patients and CPAP users:
- With their breathing obstructed, sleep apnea patients are more likely to aspirate contents or liquid from their throat.
- CPAP machines can prevent sleep apnea patients from coughing up mucus lingering in their lungs.
- Dirty CPAP equipment contains bacteria and other harmful contaminants that can cause pneumonia.