How to Deal With Irritation and Rash Issues While Using the CPAP Mask

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If you’re taking CPAP therapy for the first time, you know how challenging it can be- you have some entirely new and unwelcome bedmates. These include the whirrs of the CPAP machine and its tubing. Well, things usually become easier after several days. After a while, you can even sleep better- It’s the end of your sleep apnea troubles!

But, wait a moment; there’s another problem that’s spoiling the party- skin irritation!  Essentially, this is a side effect of using the CPAP machine. Other disturbing issues can include sores, acne, pressure marks, and similar ailments. But there’s good news! Why, there are many ways to deal with this problem.

Let’s find out a few.

Why Use of CPAP Causes Skin Irritation and Sore Spots

In essence, the major manufacturers of CPAP masks generally attempt to design each mask to be comfortable to use. Some of the manufacturers include Fisher & Paykel, Respironics, and Resmed.

But the problem is: Everybody's facial, and skin condition is essentially different. Hence, many users experience skin irritation and blisters as a result of using the masks. Others have CPAP acne, rashes, and CPAP dermatitis. In fact, even some well-fitting masks can still cause skin irritation and sore spots.  Those who have over-sensitive skin may also have a problem with the silicone-made cushion which seals the mask.

Here Are Some Causes of Full Face CPAP Mask Irritation

The following situations cause full face mask irritations:

  • As noted, most CPAP cushions are designed with silicone, which is intended to enhance comfort. Unfortunately, silicone causes skin irritation to some. A few even have silicone allergy.
  • When the CPAP mask gets dirty, it collects bacteria, skin cells, oil, dust, and other substances. This causes irritation.
  • When you use a CPAP cushion for a long time, it’s bound to break down after a while. In the end, it becomes uncomfortable for users.
  • A user may not be having the right mask. This can cause discomfort and irritation.
  • When a user overtightens the CPAP mask, the amount of pressure on the cheeks, chin, and nose also increases- this causes irritation.
  • The humidifier might be causing CPAP rainout– the moisture collects inside the tube, splashing the user's face.
  • Some users have oily skin. This can make the mask slide while he sleeps. It may-similarly- cause irritation.

How To Prevent Skin Irritation While Using a CPAP Mask

Consider the following 8 tips to prevent irritation while using your CPAP mask. The methods can be used at home to reduce pain and chaffing and get a good night’s sleep:

  • Since a humidifier prevents skin irritation, you can use the DreamStation CPAP Pro with humidifier.
  • Buy correct-fitting masks and acquire a different type of mask that you can change to in order to reduce irritation.
  • Loosen your CPAP headgear and ensure your mask gently fits your face (avoid tightening the mask).
  • Avoid putting your nasal pillows far into the nostrils. Put them at the edge of the nose.
  • Clean your mask regularly using soap and water or use CPAP wipes to eliminate infectious pathogens. You may also keep it in the Ozone CPAP cleaner.
  • Use CPAP with humidifier to reduce mouth and nostrils dryness and add moisture (through the tubing) to the passing air.
  • Regularly replace your CPAP supplies following a replacement schedule.
  • While sleeping, place your CPAP machine in a lower position than the head. Adjust the bedroom temperature or humidifier settings to “warm.”
  • Stop using the CPAP mask at once if you get allergic to it. Use masks with gel rather than silicone. Try using a mask cover.

How to Discover You Need to Replace Your Mask

If you notice one of these signs, it’s time to replace your CPAP mask:

  • Cushion that’s worn out.
  • Excessive leaking.
  • Discoloration or yellowing.

Note: Never hesitate to replace the CPAP mask parts for efficiency and comfort. Use the tips above to eliminate irritation and enhance your sleep pattern.

How to Use Your CPAP Mask and Shave Safely Without Irritation and Rashes

It’s worth noting that some CPAP mask users have discovered that when they are clean-shaven, the mask seals better, and the AHI reduces. This can save you time in the morning when you are getting late for work. To enhance their experience, others have had good results by using an aftershave gel that cools the skin.

Furthermore, a few users have also discovered that the CPAP mask's silicone seems to produce an undesirable reaction when it mixes with the typical aftershave. The result is that they experience an uncomfortable irritation while sleeping.

How to Shun the Embarrassing Red Rash Ring on the Face

In such situations, many sensed the rash wasn’t hurting. Instead, the bigger problem seemed to be the stingy (oversensitive skin), which gradually gets itchy.  Interestingly, most of them do not experience a burning sensation or anything related to that. Instead, they feel some itchiness on the skin.

Even so, having to walk around with a red rash that forms a ring around the face can be somewhat embarrassing. Indeed, the idea of attending a conference or going through a regular office routine while sporting such a rash is not a welcome thought to most workers.

Here’s some excellent advice on how to avoid these kinds of problems: First, avoid using any skin care products on your face before using the mask or going to bed. Don't do that regardless of the temptation. You should also thoroughly clean and scrub your CPAP mask to ensure it has no undesirable substances remaining. Yes, you can guarantee yourself a good night’s sleep by applying these simple tips.

Final Thoughts

Thousands of people must use the CPAP mask every night to deal with sleep apnea. Admittedly, there is no question that the CPAP mask does a fantastic job in alleviating the effects and sleep disruptions that accompany sleep apnea. Unfortunately, most of these masks often cause secondary problems that make a bad situation worse.

Many CPAP mask users experience irritation and have to deal with embarrassing skin rashes that can be disruptive. These include skin problems like eczema, acne, contact dermatitis, and psoriasis. Others experience mouth dryness and other symptoms.

Happily, there are many ways to deal with these problems successfully. Use the tips above to enhance your experience using CPAP masks and alleviate irritation issues.

Joanna Levin, Sleep Medicine Specialist

I graduated from the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine a while back. My previous work station was at the HFHS. The institution is better known as the Henry Ford Health System. While there, I served diligently, working as a professional sleep consultant.

1 Comment
  1. The elastic that holds the mask causes lots if itching where it rests on my scalp. What can I do? I have wrapped cloth around the elastic and it helped some only.

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