Getting Through Airport Security With a CPAP

If you have sleep apnea treated with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), you may wonder how to get through airport security when you travel with your CPAP machine. It is important that you use your CPAP every night, even when away on business or vacation. With a few simple steps getting through security will be a breeze. Discover some helpful tips to travel with CPAP machines.

airport security scanners
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Travel Tips When Flying

First, do not check your CPAP machine as baggage. It is important that it not become damaged during transit, and the only way to ensure this is to keep it with you as a carry-on bag.

According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), medical devices such as CPAP are not counted as one of your carry-on or personal items, so you should not be worried about carrying it with you. It is still an extra bag to carry, so factor this into your plans as you want to be sure you will be able to carry it comfortably. It can be placed in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you.

As you pass through the airport security checkpoint, you will likely need to remove the CPAP from its case, and it may be subject to examination, including a swab for explosives or X-ray screening. These are unlikely to harm the device. At some airports, the CPAP is required to be placed in a plastic bin for screening. Often it may remain in the bag and just be placed on the screening belt.

Most security screeners are likely to be familiar with CPAP machines and similar medical devices. However, if you are traveling to a part of the world that may be less familiar with them, you may wish to carry a letter from your healthcare provider briefly explaining its purpose and your medical need. This is generally unnecessary.

Using CPAP While Away From Home

Once you arrive at your destination, you want to ensure that you can comfortably use your CPAP machine. There are a few other things to keep in mind while you are traveling:

  • Extension cord: It may be helpful to bring an extension cord as outlets may not be near the bed, especially in older hotels.
  • Distilled water: It is recommended that you continue to use distilled water in the humidifier, but tap water is safe in most regions. If you are uncertain, err on the side of caution.
  • Power adapters: Modern CPAP machines have an internal voltage converter, but you may still require an outlet adapter if you are traveling abroad.
  • Extra parts: Depending on the length of your trip, you may want to have an extra supply of essential components, including your mask, tubing, and filters. If a last-minute replacement is needed, you may want to have the phone number for your equipment provider.

These travel tips will allow a quick passage through security and a healthy and restful trip wherever your journey takes you. If you have any further questions or concerns, speak with your sleep doctor for additional advice. Don't leave your CPAP at home. You will want to rest just as well on your trip, and it is possible to travel with your CPAP with ease.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Should I check my CPAP machine as baggage or bring it as a carry-on?

    When flying with a CPAP machine, you should bring it as a carry-on. Do not check your CPAP machine with your luggage as it may become lost or damaged during transit. 

  • Is a CPAP machine considered a carryon?

    No. You can carry your CPAP machine onto a plane, but it will not count as one of your carry-on or personal items. Medical devices, like a CPAP machine, are allowed to be brought onto planes as an extra item and can be stored in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you. 

  • Do I need to do anything to prepare a CPAP machine prior to air travel?

    Before packing your CPAP machine for air travel, you should remove the water if you use a humidifier. It is also a good idea to clean the machine before packing it up.

  • What should I pack with my CPAP when traveling?

    When traveling with a CPAP machine, it is a good idea to pack backup parts and supplies, including your mask, tubing, and filters. In addition, bring extra batteries, a power adapter, and an extension cord.

    If you use a humidifier with your CPAP, you may want to bring distilled water or purchase distilled water after you land. If you bring the water through airport security, they will open and test it for explosives.

    You may also want to include a letter from your doctor or a copy of your prescription for the CPAP machine, but in most cases, you won’t need to show it. 

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Batool-anwar S, Goodwin JL, Kushida CA, et al. Impact of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) on quality of life in patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). J Sleep Res. 2016;25(6):731-738. doi:10.1111/jsr.12430

  2. Schnirman R, Nur N, Bonitati A, Carino G. A case of legionella pneumonia caused by home use of continuous positive airway pressure. SAGE Open Med Case Rep. 2017;5:2050313X17744981. doi:10.1177/2050313X17744981

Additional Reading
  • Department of Transportation. "Fact Sheet: Steps Taken to Ensure New Security Requirements Preserve and Respect the Civil Rights of People With Disabilities." Washington, D.C.

By Brandon Peters, MD
Brandon Peters, MD, is a board-certified neurologist and sleep medicine specialist.