The current pandemic is understandably leading to anxiety and fear for many people, who are not only concerned about their own welfare, but vulnerable loved ones too.

There is still much to be understood about this new strain of flu-like virus. However, one of the often-repeated facts we are aware of is the elderly and people with underlying health conditions are at increased risk of displaying severe symptoms and increased mortality rates.

People with obstructive sleep apnea need to take additional care to minimize their potential exposure to the virus as it is a chronic respiratory condition which could place them in the higher risk category.

Symptoms

Symptoms appear to materialize between two days and two weeks after exposure to the virus. They typically involve a fever, a dry cough and shortness of breath. Many people are expected to experience only mild symptoms and may be unaware they have COVID-19 without a test.

This means they are unlikely to be quarantined and emphasizes the importance of social distancing and minimizing contact with others for those with underlying health issues like sleep apnea.

If you feel you have the symptoms of COVID-19, then contact a medical professional for advice going forward. Irrespective of the severity you should quarantine yourself to reduce the risk of spreading the infection.

Rest up and monitor the symptoms, but if they worsen and particularly if you start to experience shortness of breath seek medical assistance. If you have a need to call the emergency services make them aware you have or could have COVID-19.

Underlying Health Conditions

The statistics regarding mortality rates for those with underlying health issues are certainly worrying, though they may be a little misleading at present.

Currently the World Health Organization says the mortality rate for people with pre-existing chronic respiratory health conditions is 8% compared to 0.9% for those without underlying health issues. This goes up to 13.2% for people with cardio-vascular disease and 9.2% for diabetes, conditions obstructive sleep apnea is known to contribute toward.

However, with a lack of testing of the general public these rates are based on hospitalized patients only. It is believed many people will have had the virus and only displayed mild symptoms which did not require hospital treatment.

Even so, the World Health Organization it still emphasizing the increased risk to people with existing health conditions, including those with sleep apnea being treated with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy or oral appliance therapy.

The Importance of Diagnosing Sleep Apnea

At this point, there is no vaccine available for COVID-19, making preventative measures incredibly important to reduce its spread.  Indeed, previous studies have shown those who slept for less than six hours a night were 4 times more likely to catch a cold compared to people who sleep for seven hours or more each night.   However, for people with untreated sleep apnea, consistently good nights of sleep are not possible.

The 85% of people who suffer with OSA without realizing it will also be at an increased risk from the worse outcomes from COVID-19.

Symptoms of sleep apnea include heavy snoring, frequent interruptions to sleep, fatigue, morning headaches and increased irritability. It is a disorder which can be managed once diagnosed and a safe and simple in-home test will let you know whether this is what is causing your sleep deprivation.

Already Diagnosed? Ways to Protect Yourself

For those who have sleep apnea, it is imperative to use your prescribed treatment nightly and to observe other ways to reduce exposure to the virus.  Treatment can return you to good nights of restorative sleep and reduce your risk.

Other practical ways to reduce being exposed to Coronavirus include:

  • Avoid touching the face as a virus can enter through the nose, mouth and eyes.
  • Disinfect any surfaces which are frequently touched.
  • Use warm water and soap to wash your hands often and for 20 seconds each time.
  • Hand sanitizers with a minimum 60% alcohol content can also be used.
  • Avoid shaking hands.
  • Use a tissue when you cough or sneeze and dispose of it instantly
  • Keep your distance form others, especially if they show signs of being unwell.
  • Work from home if possible.

Using a CPAP Device

Continuous positive airway pressure therapy works by providing a steady stream of pressurized air through a mask worn while asleep. The device tends to be recommended to those with mild to moderate OSA and helps by keeping the airways open, which would otherwise narrow and block.

When the airways close, the brain wakes the body for air, and this can happen frequently through the night. Therefore, even if you think you have been asleep for seven to eight hours the truth is your sleep has been disturbed. By maintaining using sleep apnea treatment you can get continuous sleep and even deep sleep required to help boost your immune system.

Keep Your Equipment Clean

It is important to ensure you maintain your device and all the equipment in order to keep it as clean as possible. This is something which ought to be done anyway in ordinary times, but certainly needs to be adhered to during these rough times.

Special cleaning and sanitizing devices can be bought which use activated oxygen to remove 99% of bacteria and viruses over a short cleaning cycle.  If you don’t have that available, you can just use warm, soapy water.  Make sure you give the mask and tubing a good 30-minute soak before rinsing them out. Once rinsed the items can be left to air dry, positioning both ends down to allow water to drip out.

Wipes and cleaners can also be used and are handy to clean the mask before you wear it overnight, while both disposable and reusable filters should continue to be cleaned and replaced according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Positive Steps

One of the first and foremost goals people work toward is a good, regular sleep pattern which may include using sleep apnea treatment.  Sleep is an important restorative tool for the body as well as helping to strengthen the immune system, so important at this point of time.

Also, use reliable sources of news to keep up to date on the latest advice to help you get through this worrying time. While social media can help provide tips on specific subjects like this article, respected news outlets including local news can provide information on known cases in your area, helping you make informed decisions.