Coronavirus Covid-19, Sleep Apnea and CPAP
What is the relationship between Coronavirus Covid-19, Sleep Apnea, and CPAP? Coronavirus Covid-19 is a new virus that has adapted to infect humans. It is very infective, with each infected patient apparently infecting another two-and-a-half people. It seems harmless for many people, who might not even realize they have it, or may just have minor cold symptoms. However, for others it can be a serious, and even life-threatening, illness. It can cause a cytokine storm with lung damage, with sure death without a ventilator. Even with a ventilator, patients may die. There is no known treatment or vaccine at this time.
Which patients are more likely to suffer from serious or life-threatening illness if they become infected with Covid-19? These are older people, often over age 65, especially if they have underlying disease such as hypertension, COPD, heart disease, asthma, obesity.
Sleep apnea is not a pulmonary (lung) disease. Obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder of the upper airway and its neurological control. Central sleep apnea can be a result of many disorders including heart failure, severe neurological disease, or the neurological control of the upper airway. There is no evidence that sleep apnea predisposes to serious of life-threatening illness with Covid-19. Therefore, patients with sleep apnea need not worry that they are at increased risk of severe illness with the coronavirus.
What About CPAP use?
CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) and its variants (APAP, BPAP, ASV) use also do not cause increased risk of developing serious illness because of Covid-19 infection. However, CPAP does increase aerosol formation from fine particles in the patient’s breath. So, if a patient has Covid-19 infection, CPAP may cause the virus particles from the patient’s breath to form an aerosol. This may put other people in the same room at increased risk of becoming infected. If your loved one is using CPAP and becomes infected with Covid-19, there is increased risk to you. You should avoid being in the same area as the patient when CPAP is being used, or use an N95 mask and eye-shield.
Stay safe, wash your hands often, and keep social distance. Use your CPAP if you have sleep apnea. Don’t worry that sleep apnea will make you more prone to severe illness if you develop a Covid-19 infection. It will not.