An important aspect of self-care for all Alphas is to reduce the risk of acquiring an infection, especially a lung infection. Almost all devices used to deliver oxygen and inhaled medications become moist from contact with the secretions of breathing and coughing. This moistness creates an ideal breeding ground for bacteria and viruses. It is extremely important, therefore, to clean, disinfect and maintain your respiratory equipment to significantly reduce the risk of lung infection.
In most cases, the oxygen supply company that provides your oxygen therapy equipment will provide you with instructions on the care and maintenance of your specific equipment. Instructions on cleaning your prescribed inhaler are typically found on the manufacturer’s package insert and are the best resource for specific product information.
Below are some general tips for cleaning and caring for your respiratory equipment.
The compressor and tubing should never be submerged in water. Remember that the compressor contains an air filter which should be changed every 6 months or as recommended by the supplier.
- Wash the nebulizer cup and mouthpiece or facemask in warm soapy water daily (a mild dishwashing liquid works well).
- Rinse the soap completely off the equipment and place it on a clean paper towel to air dry.
- At least 1-2 times weekly (more often, if necessary), disinfect your nebulizer cup and mouthpiece or mask. Soak it for 30 minutes in a vinegar/water solution (1-part white vinegar to 3 parts water) or in the disinfectant solution your equipment supplier recommends.
Some nebulizer cups and masks can be placed in the top rack of the dishwasher for disinfection. Ask your supplier. Always unplug the unit prior to cleaning the compressor. The compressor should be wiped clean each week or more frequently when visibly soiled.
Change at frequent intervals. Recommendations vary from every 2-3 weeks to every 6 months. Check with the manufacture of your nebulizer.
Metered Dose Inhalers (MDI)
- Remove the metal canister from the mouthpiece sleeve.
- Wash the mouthpiece with warm water for 30 to 60 seconds at least weekly.
- Air-dry it thoroughly preferably overnight before reusing.
- Do not submerge or wash the metal canister since water may damage the valve system.
Dry Power Inhalers (DPI)
- Clean the mouthpiece at least once a week using a dry cloth.
- Do not wash your dry powder inhaler.
- Make sure to thoroughly wipe away any particles of powder that have collected on the mouthpiece.
- Wipe your cannula with a clean damp cloth daily.
- Wash your nasal cannula with soap and water twice a week.
- There is no need to wash oxygen tubing.
- Replace your nasal cannula and tubing once a month or more often, if needed, as per manufacturer recommendations. If you have had a cold or other respiratory infection, replace your cannula during the recovery and experts recommend weekly while you are ill and then after all symptoms are gone.
- Clean the mask with soap and warm water daily and hang to dry.
- Replace the mask once every 2-4 weeks or more often if needed, especially if you have had a cold or infection.
- If you have had a cold or other respiratory infection, replace the facemask after the symptoms are gone.
HUMIDIFIER (BUBBLER BOTTLE)
- Empty and refill the humidifier bottle with fresh water at least once a day.
- Wash the bottle daily in warm soapy water and rinse well.
- Disinfect the bottle after washing at least every three days by soaking the bottle in a vinegar solution (1-part white vinegar to 3 parts water) for 30 minutes.
- Rinse and shake off excess water (do not towel dry).
- Refill the bottle until it is half full or less with distilled water.
- Do not use tap water. There are minerals and other impurities in tap water that could damage your equipment.
- Replace the bottle along with the tubing and cannula monthly or more often, if needed.
- Always unplug the unit prior to cleaning.
- Wipe down the unit with a damp cloth and dry it daily. Use a cotton swab to clean the vents.
- The air filter should typically be cleaned once or twice a week with warm soapy water.
- Make sure to air dry the air filter thoroughly before placing back onto the concentrator.
- Always follow the specific instructions from your home medical equipment company for cleaning the compressor filter.
- If you use a Humidifier (Bubbler Bottle), check with the supplier about their recommended method of cleaning the bottle or consider the method outlined above.
- Always unplug the unit prior to cleaning.
- Talk with the manufacture about an automated CPAP cleaner that uses oxygen to clean and sanitize.
- Wipe the unit down with a cloth and warm water to remove dust.
- Clean the mask cushion daily with warm, soapy water and allow it to air dry. Use mild dish soap.
- Disinfect the facemask every 3 days by soaking the mask for 30 minutes in a vinegar/water solution or as recommended.
- Hand wash the headgear in mild fabric detergent if soiled and allow it to air dry.
- Empty the humidifier bottle daily and refill it with distilled water.
- Wash the humidifier bottle daily with warm soapy water and allow to air dry.
- Every 3 days disinfect the humidifier bottle following the method recommended by the supplier or as outlined above for “Humidifier”.
The most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of infection is…… wash your hands! Always wash your hands before and after all activities associated with maintaining your oxygen equipment.