Nasal Pillows: A Selection Guide
CPAP nasal pillows use a cushion that rests just inside the nostrils. The Nasal pillow CPAP mask is not designed to fit over the entire outside of the nose like a traditional nasal mask. Since the cushion is small and lightweight, the frame to hold the cushion is smaller than on other types of masks. The headgear straps tend to be thinner compared to nasal masks or full-face masks. CPAP Nose Pillows often work well for people who have been unable to get comfortable with a standard nasal CPAP mask. The pillow mask is also appreciated by people who are claustrophobic or who want a less bulky mask. Nasal pillows do not obstruct your field of vision, so it is no problem to watch TV or read. Nasal pillows work best for people who breathe mostly through their nose, who do not have chronic issues with nasal congestion, and who do not require particularly high CPAP settings.
Since the flow from the CPAP machine enters the nares without any attenuation, chafing around the nostrils and nose bleeds are occasional complications. Humidification is an important adjunct to nasal pillow use. Water-based lubricants can help prevent chafing. Never use a petroleum-based lubricant with a CPAP or any medical equipment.
When selecting your CPAP pillow mask, there are many brands and models to consider. The different brands of pillow masks differ in features related to stability, comfort, freedom of movement, and ease of connection and disconnection. To select the optimal mask, you need to determine what characteristics are most important to you. Ultimately, the best version of a nasal pillow mask to treat your sleep apnea is the one that you contentedly wear consistently. Both ResMed and Philips Respironics offer a CPAP Nasal Pillows mask that has tubing on top of the head with a swivel tube making turning around in bed very easy and sleeping in any position a breeze. Another feature of these masks is that they do not block the line of vision so watching TV or reading in bed is also easy. The Dreamwear Gel Pillows and the AirFit P30i mask come in a FitPack so sizing won't be an issue.
Key questions to ask when selecting nasal pillows:
- Where does the mask touch the face and head?
- Where does the CPAP tubing connect?
- How easy is it to get on and off?
- Which parts require replacing at regular intervals?
- What kind of breather am I?
- How high are my CPAP settings?
Sizing, fitting, and care of the mask
When selecting any mask, always pay attention to size gauges and headgear sizes. Getting the right size is critical to your comfort and satisfaction. The Nasal pillow mask usually comes with numerous cushion sizes so that you can try out different combinations to find the best fit for you.
Nasal pillow masks differ considerably among products in the dimensions of available pillows. Use sizing guides to determine which brand(s) offer pillows that best fit your unique nose. The best-fitting nasal pillows match both the diameter of your nostrils and the distance between your nostrils. The pillows should be just slightly smaller than your nostril opening. It is essential not to downsize pillows as a narrower orifice causes air hunger. It is equally important to not upsize pillows as nasal pillows that are too large may cause chafing. Pillows that are too large also pop out of the nostrils more readily, causing leaks and frustration.
Headgear also adjusts to help keep the mask on just right. Head size and nostril size do not always match, so it is common to need different sizes. Headgear can be purchased separately if needed to fine-tune mask fit.
Once you receive your nasal pillow mask, take some time well before bedtime to fit it to your face and learn to take it on and off. Follow the directions included with the mask for fitting and adjustment. Also, review the cleaning recommendations and the part replacement schedule to increase your satisfaction with the mask and improve the life of the mask.
ResMed carries a “For Her” line of masks like the Airfit P10 or the ResMed Swift FX and Swift FX Bella.