I recently received an e-mail from a gentleman who had just started using a CPAP machine. He was concerned about traveling with his CPAP and wasn't sure if it could go in his carry-on bag or if it would receive special screening. These are common questions we get quite often from people who have never traveled with their CPAP machines, so it seemed a blog post was in order.
For those who don't know, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines are respirators that are commonly used to treat sleep apnea and as you can imagine, they are extremely important to the people who need them.
Our officers are very familiar with CPAP machines and see them numerous times daily. I wouldn't suggest placing your CPAP machine in your checked baggage, because if your baggage is misplaced, you'll be without your machine.
So here is how it all goes down. The CPAP machine will need to come out of its case and be placed in a bin prior to being sent through the X-ray, but the facemask and tubing can remain in the case. We realize the X-rays bins aren't exactly sterile, so if you like, you can place your CPAP machine in a clear plastic bag before you put it in the bin. After your CPAP machine is X-rayed, it may need to undergo an Explosive Trace Detection test where a small white swab will be run over your machine and then analyzed for trace amounts of explosives.
If your CPAP machine needs an ETD test, you can request that gloves be changed and a new swab be used.
Why the special treatment? As we've discussed before (here & here), when we can't get a clear X-ray image of an item, we have to take a closer look. There are certain parts of the CPAP machines that are difficult to see on the X-ray.
I hope this helps. Safe travels!
TSA Blog Team