In January 2017, I blogged at the Essential Oil Consumer Safety Advocates website (link: here) about the ill-advised use of essential oils in CPAP machines. For those unfamiliar with the term, CPAP stands for “continuous positive airway pressure”. CPAP machines are portable mini-compressors which attach to a mask fitted over the nose and occasionally the mouth. Air is forced under pressure into the nose and/or mouth through the mask, which assists in keeping airways open during sleep. CPAP machines are most often supplied with a water tank, which when hooked up to the compressor creates a mist to help keep nasal tissues and/or the mouth from drying out while wearing the mask.
Aware that essential oils like eucalyptus are known to be beneficial to the respiratory system, some enthusiasts decided that adding oils to the CPAP’s water reservoir (so the oil would be partially nebulized by the compressor and delivered into the respiratory tree) would be a good idea. However, it didn’t take long before people saw damage to plastic/silicone parts of their CPAP apparatus such as the water reservoir, mask, and seals caused by volatile vapors from the oils used.
In an attempt to circumvent this problem, an essential oil company recently developed a “patent pending in-line filter”. The claim is that use of the filter in the CPAP device makes it safe to use essential oils without damaging parts. Sounds great, right?
Not exactly. Remember, CPAP employs air under pressure to help keep airways open during sleep (between 4 to 20 cm/H2O-some sources say 2 to 30 cm/H2O) . The amount of pressure needed to bypass airway obstruction is dependent on several factors, including weight, height, and neck size. Many people require pressures between 6 and 14 cm/H2O.
There is a vast difference between gentle nasal self-inhalation from an aromastick and having nebulized essential oils forced into the airways under pressure. This is especially true should one have a form of reactive airway disease such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Substances such as pollen, dust, smoke, air pollution (and by extension, perfumes and essential oils) can trigger cough, airway spasm, and “air hunger”.[3,4]
This doesn’t mean that one must forgo the use of essential oils for relaxation before sleep or for help in supporting the respiratory system. As I mentioned in the previous post, one can take a soothing aromatherapy bath before bedtime, diffuse in the living area for 20-30 minutes before retiring, or sniff an aromatherapy inhaler several times before applying the CPAP mask.
(Thanks to Essential Oil Consumer Safety Advocates group member David Coolbaugh for bringing this development to my attention).
1.CPAP Machines. Retrieved from Tuck Sleep website,www.tuck.com/cpap-machines/ September 14, 2017.
2.CPAP Pressure Calculation. Retrieved from Cybersleep website, http://www.cybersleep.com/CPAPpres.aspx. September 14, 2017.
3.Asthma Attack. Retrieved from American College of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology website, http://www.ucaai.org/asthma/symptoms/asthma-attack, September 14, 2017.
4.Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Retrieved from American College of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology website, http://www.ucaai.org/asthma/chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease-copd, September 14, 2017.