Using a BPAP
A BPAP is a type of ventilator, a device that helps with breathing. It’s also known as a bilevel positive airway pressure device. It may be used when a health problem is making it hard for you to breathe.
The BPAP machine
You should be familiar with the parts of your BPAP machine. They include:
A face mask, nasal mask, or nasal plugs
The machine’s motor, which blows air into a tube
The tubing that connects the machine’s motor to the mask or plugs
Your BPAP machine might also have other features, such as a heated humidifier.
Before you start BPAP therapy, your machine may need to be calibrated. Someone from your healthcare team will adjust the settings. That person is often a respiratory therapist. The settings need to be correct so that you receive the right therapy. You may also get other instructions on how to get ready for your BPAP therapy.
When to use your BPAP
You might get BPAP therapy while at the hospital for a breathing emergency. You also might use it at home for a chronic condition. Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions about when to use your BPAP. You might need to use it only while you sleep. Or you might need to use it all the time. Make sure to use it exactly as instructed. Otherwise you will not get the full benefits from your BPAP therapy.
Getting used to your BPAP
When you first start using BPAP, you may feel uncomfortable. It may feel odd wearing a mask and feeling the flow of air. Over time, you should get used to it. If you feel like you really can’t breathe while using BPAP, talk with your healthcare provider. He or she may need to adjust the pressure settings on your machine.
It’s important not to eat or drink anything while using BPAP. You might inhale food or liquid into your lungs if you do so. Your healthcare provider may give you other instructions about the best way to use your machine.
If your health problem gets better, you may be able to start using less pressure on your BPAP machine. Or you might be able to use the machine less often. Work with your healthcare team to help get the best treatment.
The BPAP device settings are given as centimeters of water, or cm/H2O. Each person’s pressure settings are different. Your healthcare provider will tell you what settings to use. Never change your BPAP pressure setting unless your provider tells you to.
BPAP ____________cm/H20 pressure when you breathe in
BPAP ____________cm/H20 pressure when you breathe out
Fixing problems with your BPAP
Nasal dryness. A humidifier may help reduce nasal dryness.
Eye or sinus symptoms. Using a facial mask instead of a nasal mask may also help lessen any eye or sinus symptoms.
Headaches. If you get headaches, they could be because of sinus congestion. In some cases, your healthcare provider might prescribe nasal saline or an antihistamine for these symptoms.
Leaky mask, skin irritation, or pressure lines. You may need a different size or type of mask. You may also find that adjusting the straps around your mask helps.
Stomach bloating. Your healthcare provider may be able to reduce the pressure setting on your machine to stop stomach bloating.
Noise. If the noise from the BPAP bothers you, try using earplugs. If the device is very loud, check with the medical supplier to make sure it is working correctly.
When to call your healthcare provider
Have someone call 911 if you are struggling for breath or unable to breathe.
Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:
You feel like you can’t breathe while using your BPAP
Your mask is constantly leaking air and you can’t make it fit
You have severe or ongoing skin irritation from your mask
August 21, 2018
Bauman KA, Hyzy RC. Noninvasive positive pressure ventilation in acute respiratory failure in adults. UpToDate., Martin TJ. Noninvasive positive pressure therapy of the obesity hypoventilation syndrome. UpToDate.
Blaivas, Allen, J., DO,Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN,Image reviewed by StayWell art team.