A 2009 study at Harvard University, by Dr. Alex Horowitz, Dr. Sandra Horowitz and Dr. Chinhak Chun showed that over time, CPAP masks, even when cleaned and taken care of regularly, contain high amounts of bacteria colonies and fungus.
The study looked at CPAP masks, hoses and humidifiers of 24 people – 16 men and 8 women – and concluded that 48 per cent of the CPAP masks tested contained more than 2000 bacteria colonies after 48 hours.
Swabs were taken from the interface (where the mask seals to your face) of the mask and at the base of the hose and humidifier. These swab samples were then tested for bacteria colony counts 24 and 48 hours later.
What they found was, there is a correlation between older masks and higher amounts of bacteria, no matter how often or well the mask was cleaned.
Because of this, experts recommend replacing the mask and hose at least once every six months to guard against bacteria build up.
While none of the people in the study said they had become ill more often since starting CPAP therapy, eight complained of being more susceptible to nasal congestion.
Because hand washing is widely regarded as the best way to fight bacteria and germs by medical professionals, washing your CPAP mask and equipment is recommended as the best way control bacteria in your CPAP mask and equipment. As well, remember to replace your CPAP mask every 3-to-6 months.