If your child has been prescribed an apnea monitor, there are several alarms that you may hear from the monitor. Let’s take a look at each one and what they mean.
Apnea alarm. As the name implies, this alarm sounds when your child does not breath for 20 seconds or greater. If you hear this alarm the first thing to do is look at your child and quickly assess whether he/she is breathing. If not, then gently stimulate your child to stimulate them to breathe again. Sometimes the sound of the alarm may wake or stimulate the child to resume breathing, however, don’t assume that this will be the case. Observe your child for a time to be sure that their breathing has resumed normally. Newborns, especially preemies, may have apnea alarms from time to time. If you notice that your child is having more apnea alarms than you have normally experienced you should notify your child’s physician as soon as practical. If you child is experiencing apnea events on a regular basis, continued consistent use of the monitor will help to ensure your child’s safety. If you are using the sticky electrodes, this is the electrode with the white cord.
Low Heart Rate Alarm. Again, the name says it all. The low heart rate alarm sounds when your child’s heart rate falls below the limit that is set on the monitor. This limit is set by the equipment provider according to the doctor’s prescription. It cannot be changed or altered without the doctor’s expressed order. If you child’s heart rate falls below the set alarm limit, the alarm will sound and will not stop sounding until the heart rate rises back above the alarm limit, or until the monitor is turned off. Most apnea monitors do not have an “alarm silence” button. This means that you can’t silence the alarm, you must fix the problem in order to silence the alarm. Heart rate is being read by the electrode with the black wire.
High Heart Rate Alarm. Just like the low heart rate alarm, this number is set according to the doctor’s prescription. If your child’s heart rate exceeds this limit, you will hear an alarm.
Loose Leads Alarm. This is probably the most common alarm that you’ll hear. As babies get older and grow, they tend to use their hands more, so the chances increase that they may pull or tug at one of their leads. If this causes the electrode to lose contact with the child’s skin, the alarm will sound. If the electrode is placed in a spot that it can’t fully detect impulses from the child’s heart or respiratory efforts, then you’ll likely hear an alarm too. The electrodes are meant to be placed in specific places on your child’s torso. If they are placed in positions other than what your equipment provider instructed, they may not work correctly and will cause loose lead alarms to sound. If you have trouble keeping the sticky electrodes in place a small piece of paper tape or hypoallergenic tape might help keep them secure. As always, if you are having difficulty with your electrodes contact your equipment provider to see if there are other items or options. Sleep is a necessity.
Low Battery Alarm. If this one sounds, contact your equipment provider at your earliest convenience. Most apnea monitors are equipped with batteries to make sure you can use them while travelling or in the event of a power outage. If the battery is low it should be replaced by the equipment provider as soon as practical.
Memory Full Alarm. If you monitor reaches its data capacity, the monitor might not be able to store new data, or it might lose older data. If this alarm sounds contact your equipment provider as soon as practical so that the monitor can be downloaded and the memory cleared so that it can continue recording data. This is very important, since this information is given to your child’s doctor. The doctor can then be better informed about alarm events. This data also helps your doctor determine when your child no longer needs to use the monitor.
Your equipment provider should download the data from the apnea monitor’s memory on a regular basis so that the doctor can assess how the monitor is working for your child.
Reset Button. This button is to clear the alarm lights after an event is detected and corrected. This button is NOT an alarm silence button. Pushing this button during an active alarm will not silence or reset the alarm. If an alarm is sounding it MUST be corrected before the reset button can be used.
As with any piece of home medical equipment, if you have questions or concerns make sure that you contact your home equipment provider promptly so that together, you can resolve any issues. Understanding your child’s equipment and how to use it is the best way to ensure that the equipment does what it is designed to do, which is help maintain and improve your child’s health. And that’s a winning strategy every time.