Kids and CPAP: Helping Your Kid Work With CPAP: It’s Child’s Play

Kids and CPAP

Kids and CPAP : A Boy using a Nasal CPAP Mask

Kids and CPAP : A Boy using a Nasal CPAP Mask

You think using CPAP yourself is hard? Try getting a 3 year old to wear one. But you can do it. A lot of parents have successfully gotten their kids to use the CPAP machine and mask.

Kids and CPAP can be done!

In this article I’ll share with you the tips and tricks and other things they used.

Use distraction

With the mask get them to do thing regular things with the mask on. Things like eating (obviously not with a full face mask), reading, playing and video games.

The point at this stage is to make it a normal part of living. Try doing special things when they are wearing the mask

Use Positive Reinforcement

Every time they wear the mask for say 20 minutes they get a gold star. 5 gold stars equals a toy from a dollar star. 20 gold stars is a special meal out.

Some parents had good results by getting them to stick the sticker on the actual machine. Over time it becomes less ‘medical’ and more ‘theirs.’ Be careful you don’t cover the air inlet part of the machine. Sticking the stickers on the mask may also damage the sensitive material of the cushion.

Once you get them used to the mask, repeat this with the hose. Then connected to the machine. Then with the machine blowing at a lower pressure.

How do I get them to actually use the CPAP machine?

You start them with a low pressure to get used to the noise and the forced air.

let them turn on the machine: its less scary when they can control the machine.

If they’re taking naps this is a good time to get them used to using it for short periods of time. Ask them at the end if they had a great nap using the machine. This gets them to associate the machine with a good side effect.

When getting them to use the machine overnight get them started with say 30 minutes and increasing it slowly until the whole night.

No Bullpoop

But there will be a time when you insist they use it regularly. And this will test your patience and parenting skills to the max.

Kids and CPAP Girl Wearing Nasal CPAP Mask

Girl Wearing Nasal CPAP Mask

Kids are excellent at finding excuses: need a glass of water, can’t drink with the mask on, need to go to the bathroom etc. They’ll take the mask off all the time. But you have to be consistent and accept no refusal. Expect a lot of sleepless night.

Also be aware that they won’t always progress forwards. You will get times when they seem to ‘go backwards.’ When this happens don’t get angry: just reapply the techniques. For example they can’t seem to keep the mask on for more than 10 minutes. If that’s the case insist they keep it on for 5 minutes.


Problems your child will face

  1. Dry nose. Using CPAP can be painful because of its side effects. Dry nose is one of them. This is caused by the air not been moist enough. You’ll need to add a humidifier to the CPAP system. Most CPAP machines now come with a humidifier. If you have one then consider turning up the heat: this will increase the moisture in the air.
  2. Rain Out. One side effect of increased moisture in the air from the machine is Rain-Out. This is caused by the warmer air coming in contact with the colder mask and tube. Fixes to this include using a heated hose or insulate the hose. Insulating the hose is probably the best option.
  • I suggest using SnuggleHose: it makes the mask feel less medical and more snuggly.
  • Congested Nose: dry air will lead to a congested nose. When this occurs consider using a different mask such as a full face or total face mask. Also you will need to increase the moisture being provided by the machine. You may also have to buy an external humidifier.
  • Dry Mouth: if they sleep with their mouth open they will get dry mouth. Consider switching to a full face or total face mask. Using a chin strap may also help and is a cheaper option.
  • Leaks: adults have trouble finding a mask that fits and doesn’t leak. With children it’s even harder: the choice of masks you can use is limited.
    • If the machine is leaking through the nose then adjust it using the head strap. Pushing the mask away from the bridge of the nose may seem counter-intuitive but by doing that you can release the tension of the straps allowing the mask to become less compressed.
    • If using a nasal or nasal pillow then consider using one that has smaller pillows and/or prongs.
    • Consider using mask liners. Recommended are REMzzzs mask liners. This goes between the mask and their skin making for a better seal and allowing you to reduce the strap tension.
    • The mask my just be too big. You may have to switch to a full face mask. Manufacturers produce ‘For-Her’ masks. These are smaller than normal and may be a good fit.
  • Dry eyes: this is caused by air leaking from the mask into the eyes.
    • Again consider using mask liners to improve the seal.
    • If your mask has a forehead pad you can likely adjust the angle of the pad to improve the seal around the eyes.
  • Red marks: this is caused by the mask being held onto the face too hard. Normally the mask is put on so tight to prevent a mask leak. Mask liners will help, but sometimes you may get a better seal by loosening the straps.
  • Acne: if the mask isn’t cleaned of the oils and sweat each morning your child will get acne marks: more often as they get older.

Making CPAP Less Scary

This hissing, snorting machine can be scary to your child.

  • Make it quieter by moving it lower than the head and the bed.
  • wrap the hose with a soft material like SnuggleHose.
  • Make the machine fun: every night your child uses the mask for at least 3 hours let them put a sticker on the machine.
  • Read a bedtime story while your kid is using the mask.
  • Turn on the ramp up so its not so hard to breath while he’s still awake.

What CPAP Machine Should I Get?

Generally any machine will do. But good advice: hold out for an APAP machine because the your child’s pressure will change a lot as they grow older. This way you don’t have to keep going back to the doctor’s to get the pressure change: the machine auto-titrates with each breath.

What CPAP Mask Should I Get?

Masks for kids are few and far between. Because kids faces are small full face, oral and hybrid masks are too large and will leak a lot.

Kids and CPAP using the Pixi Mask

Making CPAP work

This leaves you with:

  • Nasal. This is used most often with kids. It just covers the nose. It doesn’t cover the mouth so speaking isn’t an issue. It’s also safe if your child vomits as the mouth is unobstructed. If your child is a mouth breather they may also need chin strap.
  • Nasal Pillows. This type of mask has small soft prongs that enter the nose and a cushion that seals the nostrils. This mask type is liked because it doesn’t block their eyes. But getting one where the pillows fit a child nostrils is hard but easier as they get older.
  • Total Face Mask: a lot of kids hate this type of mask and is usually used as the last option. In has an inherent problem is that if your kid vomits it could choke him. These masks should only used by kids old enough to know how to take the mask off.

Age 1 to 2

Small Child Life Nasal Mask

  • Gel Cushion
  • Gel Header Pad
  • Has Swivel Hose Connector

Small Child Contour Nasal Mask

  • Gel Cushion
  • Gel Header Pad
  • Optional swivel hose connector

Age 2-7

Pixi Nasal Pillow

  • Silicone Cushion
  • No header pad needed
  • No swivel hose connector

Age 7+

Youth Nasal Mask

  • Gel Cushion
  • Gel Header Pad
  • Optional swivel hose connector

FitLife Total Face

  • Silicone Cushion
  • Silicone Header Pad
  • Swivel Hose Connector

If your child is 7+ you may also want to try the For Her masks. These are designed for smaller faces and may just fit your child. It also gives you more options for finding a good sealing mask.