Frequently Asked Questions

How Does My Insurance Work?

Insurance terminology can be confusing and misleading. Check out this document for a breakdown of terms.

Below you will find answers to questions we frequently receive. Patients of Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine in Algonquin, Illinois find this information helpful. Should you need further assistance, please call us at 815-477-7350 and we will happily answer your questions.

PAP Device Questions

Who do I talk to if I have questions about my bill? How do I make a payment?

For any questions about billing, please contact or call us at 815-477-7350.

You can make a payment through Healow (the patient portal), text us what you’d like to pay and a photo of your credit card through a HIPAA secure text message on our website, or make a payment online.

Can I purchase a device or PAP supplies without a prescription?

By federal law, you are required to have a prescription for any PAP device or supplies.

Does a warranty come with my device?

All new devices come with a 2-year manufacturer warranty. The humidifiers on the devices come with a 1-year manufacturer warranty. You may purchase an extended warranty from us; they extend 3 years past the manufacturer warranty. Most insurance companies allow for the purchase of a new device every 5 years.

Which type of mask is the best one for me?

There are so many different masks on the market. There are nasal masks, which fit around your nose, nasal pillows, which fit in the nostrils of your nose, and full-face masks, which will cover your mouth and nose.

Each mask has a different purpose, with their own benefits and drawbacks. If you have used a mask in the past, it is best that you remain with what has worked best for you. If this is your first mask, it is best to try different masks until you are comfortable with one.

Why do I need a humidifier with my PAP device?

Heated or cool passover humidification can increase your comfort with any PAP device. Humidification adds moisture to the air being blown into your airways, and without it, many people find significant drying out of their nostrils, mouths, and throats.

How do I clean my supplies and mask?

Daily cleaning of your supplies is a must. Warm soapy water is your friend when cleaning your supplies. You may disinfect your supplies with 1 part water and 3 parts vinegar once a week for optimal cleaning.

You may also purchase PAP mask cleaning wipes from Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine for daily use of cleaning and disinfection.

What happens if I wake up and my mask is off?

This happens all the time with PAP therapy users. Once your body adjusts to having a mask on your face while you sleep, this will become less of a problem.

What should I expect from my sleep study?

When you arrive at the lab you will be greeted by a sleep technician who will take you to your room. You will be connected to a variety of sensors during your study that monitor different aspects of your sleep:

  • Sensors on your head to monitor brain wave activity
  • Sensors on your face to measure eye movement and muscle tension
  • EKG patches to monitor your heart
  • Soft cloth bands around the chest and stomach to measure breathing effort
  • Sensors on the legs to measure leg movements
  • A small sensor on the throat to measure snoring
  • Small sensors under the nose to measure airflow and pressure
  • A sensor on your finger to measure oxygen levels

The attachment of these sensors is entirely painless. You will also be monitored by a video camera during the study for the doctor’s reference.

Once the testing begins, the sleep technician will have an open channel microphone so that if you need anything during the night, just speak into the room and they can assist you.

All the sensors plug into a small box that attaches to the wall, so if you need to use the restroom it only takes a moment to unplug and you will be free to walk about the room. Please do not get out of bed unassisted.

The test usually begins between 10:00 and 10:30 PM and runs until 5:00-6:00 AM the following morning. It is very important that we get a specific amount of testing time for the test to be considered valid. If you need to leave before 5:00 AM, please let us know in advance so we can schedule accordingly.

If you are currently taking a sleep aid, please bring it with you. This will not affect the quality of your test. Please make sure to bring a pair of pajamas or something comfortable to sleep in, a favorite pillow/blanket, and/or a pair of slippers to walk to the restroom. We have a television available as well as a ceiling fan in each room.

At the end of the test the technician will remove the electrodes and shower facilities are available if desired. The scalp electrodes are attached with a gummy substance, which washes out easily with warm water. It is very important that after your study you follow up with the doctor to go over your results.

Pulmonary Questions

What is pulmonary function testing?

Pulmonary function tests (also called PFTs or lung function tests) help determine how well your lungs are functioning. The results of these tests determine how much air your lungs can hold, how quickly you can move air into and out of your lungs, and how well your lungs are able to use oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide.

The tests help your doctor determine if you have a lung disease, provide a measure of how significant your lung disease is, and can show how well the treatment for your lung disease is working.

What is a nebulizer?

A nebulizer changes inhaled medication from a liquid to a mist so that it can be more easily inhaled into the lungs. Home nebulizer therapy is particularly effective in delivering asthma medications to anyone who is unable to use inhalers with spacers.

Nebulizers, in general, are not very portable. They are big in size and require an electrical source. There are portable nebulizers that are more lightweight, smaller, and have an internal battery.

Once starting on supplemental oxygen, will I have to stay on it forever? Will I become addicted to supplemental oxygen?

Some people may need to continue oxygen therapy routinely to maintain the oxygen level in their blood. This is a good question to ask your healthcare provider.

We all need oxygen to survive and for our bodies to operate more efficiently and effectively. It is important that you have the proper levels of oxygen in your body so that your heart and lungs are not working too hard and/or inefficiently.

Depending on the progression of your disease, sometimes exercise will help your body systems work more effectively and may decrease the amount of supplemental oxygen needed.

Is it hard to get around with portable tanks?

No, portable tanks weigh from 5 to 15 pounds and are carried within a shoulder bag or duffle bag; larger tanks may be pulled in a cart. The size of your tank will depend on how much oxygen is normally needed and for how long.

What could happen if I smoke while using oxygen?

NEVER SMOKE WHILE USING OXYGEN! While oxygen is not flammable, it does accelerate combustion. It is possible to ignite a flame and burn your cannula and your face by smoking and using oxygen. Do not allow smokers within 10 feet of you if you are using oxygen.

Why do I get a funny taste in my mouth after using my asthma inhaler?

Tasting your inhaled medication often is an indication of poor inhaler technique. Proper inhaler technique ensures the delivery of the desirable amount of medicine to your lungs and less medicine residue in your mouth.

With good technique, however, it is important to rinse your mouth when you are taking certain drugs called inhaled corticosteroids (ICs) – for example, Flovent® (fluticasone). The residue these medications can leave in your mouth increases your chance of developing an oral fungal infection such as thrush (oral candidiasis).

You can rinse your mouth with water or milk to remove the taste an inhaler may leave in your mouth. You are encouraged to rinse your mouth right after using an asthma inhaler, not only to remove the aftertaste, but more importantly, to avoid developing an oral fungal infection.

Review your inhaler technique with your doctor or pharmacist to minimize your chances of developing an oral fungal infection, and be sure to read all the patient information supplied with your medication.

What happens to my lungs if I have COPD?

The tubes (airways) that carry air in and out of your lungs may become partly blocked from swelling or mucus. This makes it more difficult to breathe.

At the end of the airways are many tiny balloon-like air sacs, which inflate and deflate when you breathe in and out. With COPD, these air sacs lose their elasticity. This can lead to the collapse of small airways and also make it more difficult for you to breathe.

How can I exercise when I can’t breathe?

By using coordinated breathing techniques and starting out slowly, you will be able to find an exercise program that works for you.

When you have difficulty breathing, it can cause you to become anxious, which can lead to inactivity. The more inactive you are, the more short of breath you become. The increased shortness of breath in turn increases your anxiety about activity. This becomes a vicious cycle.

If you exercise, you can beat this circle. This will give you more energy, decrease your level of breathlessness (dyspnea), and decrease some of the anxiety that comes with being short of breath. Often, participating in a pulmonary rehabilitation program can help one resume regular physical activity.

Why should I use pursed-lip breathing with exercise?

Shortness of breath in COPD is caused by too much air remaining in the lungs, decreasing the amount of room left in the lungs to breathe. Pursed-lip breathing can help you feel less short-of-breath by reducing the amount of trapped air in the lungs, giving you more room to breathe. It also helps increase your oxygen saturation.

Pursed-lip breathing causes a positive pressure in your airways keeping them open longer while you are breathing out. This helps move air out of your lungs more easily, thus allowing fresh air to come in to the lungs.

Why am I short of breath if my oxygen saturation is good?

Depending on your disease, sometimes you may feel short of breath even though your body is getting the oxygen it needs. It is important to use good breathing techniques, use your medications properly, and discuss with your healthcare provider your symptoms so your specific needs can be met.

Exercise can be used to improve functional endurance and strength, so tasks become easier with less shortness of breath.

What is the difference between a dry powder and an aerosol inhaler?

An aerosol inhaler, or pressurized metered dose inhaler (MDI), is a canister filled with medication suspended in a propellant. When the canister is pushed down, a measured dose of the medication is pushed out as you breathe it in.

Dry powder inhalers contain a dry powder medication that is drawn out of the device and into your lungs when you breathe in.

What are the most common signs and symptoms of COPD?

Common signs of COPD include:

  • A cough that doesn’t go away
  • Coughing up a lot of mucus
  • Shortness of breath, especially with activity
  • Wheezing
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Limitations in activity