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Sleep Apnea, Dextromethorphan, and Upper Respiratory Infections


If you have ever had a common cold, the flu, or an upper respiratory infection, chances are you have probably taken Dextromethorphan and not even known it.  Dextromethorphan is a cough medication bottled by brands like Robitussin, Zicam, and Delsym.  More importantly, it is one of the main substances used to treat an upper respiratory infection.

Acute Upper respiratory Infections are pretty common and come in a variety of forms.  It is a highly contagious infection and inflammation of some part of the upper airway, which includes the nose, throat, larynx, sinuses or bronchi.  They can last 3 to 14 days.  Common colds that we all get from time to time are by far the most frequent type of Upper Respiratory Infection.  Other types include:

  • Sinusitis:  Inflammation of the sinuses
  • Epiglottitis:  This is the inflammation of the upper part of the trachea.  Swelling in this area can cause the flow of air into the trachea to be blocked.
  • Laryngitis:  Inflammation of the larynx, which is the voice box.
  • Bronchitis:  Swelling of the bronchial tubes that lead into the lungs

Transmitting a Respiratory Infection is as easy as exchanging words.  If an infected person sneezes or coughs without covering their mouth, the infection can be spread.  Even if you do not sneeze, just being in a crowded place can cause those who are around you to become sick.  Sleep Apnea will become more severe with an Upper Respiratory Infection, especially if it is Bronchitis or Epiglottis.  The water vapor that a CPAP humidifier provides can help alleviate some symptoms of a URI.  Individuals who do not have sleep apnea can have temporary episodes of sleep apnea because of a Respiratory Infection.

The good news is that most Upper Respiratory Infections are not that serious and can be treated at home.  Dextromethorphan, hot herbal tea, vitamin C, rest, zinc, and gargling with salt water are all ways to shorten the duration of the infection.  If you suspect someone is suffering from this condition, act as if they have filed a restraining order on you.  Meaning stay out of their vicinity!


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