Have you ever awakened from sleeping gasping for air or choking? If so, you probably told your doctor about it, who suggested you take part in a sleep study. Based on the sleep study results, your doctor might have prescribed a CPAP machine to help you breathe during sleep. Since it is an expensive medical device, people are tempted to buy used CPAP machines.
Can you use someone else’s CPAP machine? The answer is yes, you could, but you want to take precautions. CPAP machines are set to specific setting to fit the patient it is prescribed for. So the device is set at a pace based on the patient’s individual needs.
If you are planning on using a CPAP machine that is given or loaned to you by a friend or family member, you will want to have it set to the right settings. The settings are determined by the results from your sleep study and sleep professionals. If you are planning on buying a CPAP machine second hand, there are several things you will need to consider. And buying anything used comes with a “buyer beware” warning.
In this article you will learn the risks involved if you wish to use or purchase someone else’s CPAP machine. These are some things to consider:
- Health and safety risks
- Investment risk
- Guidelines for buying used CPAP/APAP/BIPAP devices
- Legal issues selling and buying a used CPAP machine
All though there are some risks, i am going to start of with what experts say on this topic. They have great advice on what to look out for when you are going to use or acquire a used CPAP machine. Getting a good used machine can save you money and is worth it if you do it the right way.
After I share their advice, I will go over some pros and cons on things to think about.
What do the experts say?
Dr. Pamela Hamilton Stubbs
Dr. Hamilton-Stubbs is double board certified in Sleep Disorders Medicine and board certified in general pediatrics. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and a member of the International Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group.
So when she tackles the question if it is safe to use someone else’s CPAP, I take it at great value. Her upfront answer is “The answer is probably yes, But you need to have some supervision and take some precautions.”
She goes on to explain that you will want to wipe the actual machine down with a Clorox type wipe. And although she says it is ok to use a used CPAP machine, she does say some parts are not meant to be reused. Parts like the humidifier, filters, tubing, and the mask should be replaced.
Replacing parts like those helps prevent any possible exposure to any bacteria or mold that could be lurking around.
And probably the bigger issue is that she doesn’t recommend “do it yourself CPAP.” If you obtain a used CPAP, you should still use the advice of a health care professional to monitor and direct your care. The can check your settings and make sure it is set correctly and it is actually helping.
Another good piece of advice she gives is that when you buy new supplies like the hose, humidifier, filters, etc, that company might be willing to check to make sure your machine is in good working condition. Now, this wouldn’t be the case for Amazon. But if you get the supplies (especially a mask) from a reputable DME (Durable Medical Equipment) company, that is a service they may offer.
You can check out her video below where she talks about this. I highly recommend her other videos as well. There are not a lot of sleep medicine specialists sharing their knowledge on YouTube like this.
Jason Sazama (AKA LankyLeft27)
Jason is a registered Polysomnographic Technologist (sleep tech) and clinical sleep Educator. He is well known as LankyLeft27 on his YouTube Channel as well as his popular website FreeCPAPAdvice.com. He is by far one of my favorite resources when it comes to learning about CPAP.
Jason has a lot of great advice when it comes to buying a used CPAP machine. Whether it is on Craigslist, the Facebook Market place, Offerup, or whatever, these are things to look for.
One of the more interesting things he talks about is looking at how many hours has the machine been used. He mentions that you can find some machines that can have less than 50 hours used, which is barley even a weeks use.
That is because a lot of people try CPAP, don’t like it, and give up on it too soon. Maybe their insurance paid for it, part of it, or they want to try to recoup some of the money they spent on it by selling it second hand, in almost new condition.
So when trying to by a used CPAP, ask the seller how many hours the machine has been used (this can be checked on the device itself). This can be a good indicator of how new the machine is and its condition.
So if you think about it, if a person uses a machine 8 hours a day for a full year, we are talking about 3,000 hours if you round up slightly. So that can give you an idea of what numbers you should be looking at for hours. Most sellers don’t put this information in their listing, probably because they didn’t think about it. But I would recommend sending them a message to give you the exact hours the machine was used for
The average life expectancy of a CPAP or BIPAP machine is approximately 20,000 hours, or about seven to eight years full time use. So if you find a machine that has less than 3,000 hours, it is less than a year old and probably worth the savings. The closer it is to that 20,000 hour mark, the older it is. Some people might have a 6 year old machine they are trying to get rid of because they got a new one, and that might not be a great value for you.
Here is a video that Jason (LankyLeft27) made where he was going through a disagreement he had with another YouTuber going through what he disagrees with and why. His videos are educational and I highly recommend subscribing to him.
Where can you get a used CPAP machine that is not Craigslist, Facebook, Offerup, Etc?
In the video above, Jason mentions a great website that sells second hand CPAP machines. It is SecondWindCPAP.com. From their website, “SecondwindCPAP specializes in quality discounted ‘open box’ new, and gently used CPAP & BIPAP equipment for those individuals who could not otherwise afford it.
They test and certify everything they sell. So if you are wanting to save money buying a machine second hand, but don’t want to go through a person to person sale, this is a great option to consider.
Other things to consider
The two experts I talk about above give great advice on getting a used CPAP or BIPAP machine. But you want to get all the information you possibly can. Below I will go over possibilities of what could go wrong when buying a machine second hand. Although these may or may not present a problem, it is still good to consider.
Health and Safety Risks
A CPAP machine is prescribed to patients who have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. This condition is characterized by the throat collapsing on and off during sleep. The device is intended for use by the person to whom it is prescribed.
If you are thinking about using someone else’s CPAP machine, you are opening yourself up to health and safety risks.
- Once it is used, a CPAP machine has been contaminated. Even if the previous owner has kept it clean, the device is still subject to have residual amounts of germs or pathogens, which can put you at high risk for some type of infection.
- The CPAP machine is the perfect place to house bacteria, mold, yeast, and viruses that thrive in areas that are warm and damp.
- When using a pre-owned CPAP machine, you are susceptible to putting yourself at risk for contracting a host of illnesses: pneumonia, bronchitis, viral or bacterial respiratory infections, and even tuberculosis.
- Parasites and bugs can also infest a CPAP machine.
Here are some quick tips to minimize health risks
- If you decide on a used CPAP machine, make sure you set it to the settings prescribed by your doctor
- If you are considering one you found on an online classifieds, you could benefit to see it in person to see if it smells like cigarette smoke or other red flags
- There are reputable online sources that sell used CPAPs and supplies. These are professionals that are experienced and will clean and sterilize everything. They also tend to only sell “gently used” machines and supplies as well
- If you use a used CPAP machine, using a brand new mask and hose can help minimize risks
Although there is a risk of contamination, this apply mostly to the attachments like the mask/mask pieces and tubing. So using a used CPAP machine but a brand new mask/hose would help lower these risks.
When you purchase a used CPAP machine, you are not only risking your health, but you are also risking the money you spend on your investment. A used machine won’t have a warranty. If it breaks, any savings you had will be offset by the cost of a new machine.
So you may save hundreds of dollars by buying used. But if it breaks down after a couple months, there is little recourse and the savings are no long worth it. Especially if you are buying from someone from like the Facebook market place, Offer Up, E-bay, Craigslist, or one of the other many places you can buy one.
Without a warranty on a used machine, you may be faced with being unable to fix mechanical issues with the device. Outdated machines also have a risk of not having parts available to replace those that need to be changed
While you may save money buying a used machine, by the time you have bought everything you need to be able to effectively use it, your initial investment is only part of the actual cost.
The dangers of using a used CPAP machine are worth considering before purchasing one. Just the health hazard alone should deter anyone from buying a used CPAP machine. Use caution when purchasing any durable medical equipment, especially when given a prescription by a doctor. It is crucial so that you use the machine as it is intended to avoid causing any harm to yourself.
If you have specific questions, I recommend giving either Jason or Dr. Hamilton Stubbs a question on one of their recent videos. They are both genuine people and will most likely respond if you leave a genuine question