Protecting your Hill-Rom Vest Airway Clearance System (with your life!)

Hill-Rom put a lot of thought into building a really great airway clearance device.

The system is well designed and has been built from quality materials.

However, no designer can predict the knocks and bumps that their ‘baby’ will have to endure in the real world.

Here are some tips for keeping your investment safe(r).

1. Don’t drop it!

The air pulse unit is pretty rugged.  However, it really doesn’t like being pulled off a table, nightstand, or other elevated surface and not onto a hard floor.  A lot of people keep these on a table, nightstand, end table, etc.   If you do this, just be sure that the air pulse unit isn’t sitting on the edge, ready to fall.  The air hoses, although flexible is not elastic and will pull the air unit if you move.  Therefore, consider putting the unit as low as possible so that if it falls, it won’t fall far.

Also, if you are looking for a place to put your air unit, consider a piece of furniture with a rail or other way to restrain the air unit from falling if pulled.  A friend who lives on a sailboat keeps his on a shelf strapped in with a couple of nylon 1” wide straps.  Some people keep the units on the floor.  I wouldn’t recommend this as these units don’t like being kicked accidentally, especially by heavy winter boots.   Another friend uses a rolling cart to store the system and be able to move it easily from room to room in her house.

2. Clean with Care!

These systems weren’t meant to be conversation pieces.  They are meant to be used, regularly and their purpose implies that they might just get….coughed on.  I don’t know anyone that has one sitting around just for the fun of it.  Should you cough on it and you want to clean the air unit, do it as soon as possible.  A friend keeps a moist (water only) towel near and wipes down the unit after every use.   Never use harsh chemicals as these can destroy the display, the buttons, and especially the rubber baffles just behind the air intake. That is why Hill-Rom has put the neat little ‘Don’t Spray Me’ sticker on the back of the unit.

Want to see what happens when you use a harsh spray cleaner on the baffles?  Here is a photo of a Cracked and Dried Baffle out of the Hill-Rom 104 Vest Airway Clearance System.

This Hill-Rom Air Pulse Unit had less than 100 hours on it and found an early death from having a well-meaning caretaker clean it with a chlorine-based spray cleaner.  It made all the right noise but was not putting out any positive pressure.

3. Who needs a vest, anyway?

Some people, to fool their family members into thinking that they are actually using the vest, run them without a vest to rack up hours.  Very, very naughty!  Not just because the therapeutic effects decrease significantly without the vest garment being worn (on your, not your teddy bear’s body).  Worse, it can cause the motor to over-speed, heat up, and cause all kinds of internal damage, most of which cannot be repaired.  Photo of a dead motor unit below.

4. Use it or Lose it.

Hey, you are feeling well, running every day, using a trampoline, and having a great time.  So you don’t use the Hill-Rom Vest Airway Clearance System for a while.  Bad, bad, bad.  Airway clearance is a daily task.  Just like brushing your teeth.

What is worse is that the motors require a lot of power on startup.   Therefore, the power supply board has a set of large capacitors on it that stores power only to unleash it when it’s needed.  Well, these tend to get tired and discharge when the unit hasn’t been used for a while.  Like a gasoline lawnmower that enjoys a quiet winter in the garage or garden shed doesn’t like to start on command in the spring.  So, if you use the Hill-Rom Vest System as a conversation piece rather than a therapy tool, you might have some problems getting it going again.  Replacing a power supply board is an expensive undertaking as Hill-Rom does not sell internal parts.

5. Never wash non-washable garments.

Hill-Rom recently introduced the washable C3 Vest Garment Line.  These are nice but very expensive ($ 550 as of 1/2012).   There is NOTHING wrong with the Classic Vest Line, even if they can’t be washed.  And, if you wear a comfortable cotton garment under the vest, they are pretty comfortable.  Clean the vest garment with a clean, damp cloth or a mild soap.  Clean them as soon after use as possible.   Never use harsh cleaning chemicals on them.  And never be tempted to put them in the laundry as they don’t do well in most washing machines, especially vertical agitators.  And whatever you do, DON’T ever put your Hill-Rom The Vest Airway Clearance System Garment into the dryer as it will melt.

6. What a great cat/dog toy!

We love our pets but have seen how destructive they can be, given the opportunity. Your pets also love you and anything that smells like you! For example, your vest, your mask, any hoses, anything used for your treatments smell like you and could be subject to chewing.  Cats love to play with any rubber objects and that includes remote controls and the rubber air inlets on the Full-Vest.  Dogs, especially puppies like chewing the air hoses.   Keep in mind that replacement vest garments are $ 550 and that hoses currently cost $ 50 per set.  Also, keep in mind that either one is a crucial part of your daily health.  Be protective of this equipment and keep them away from pets.  One way to do this is to store all components of this system in a piece of furniture that has a way to keep prying paws out.

7.  Zorro used whips, not Hill-Rom Vest Air Hoses

Kids love to play.  And they should!  But please encourage them to use toys, not their Hill-Rom Airway Clearance System.   One little fellow who is fascinated by Zorro’s adventures likes to use the air hoses to demonstrate his whipping moves.  Besides the fact that kids can hurt themselves with these things, they are not built to withstand the abuse that enthusiastic little superheroes can inflict on them.   Once again, putting all the system components in a cupboard or other protective place can go a long way towards discouraging this behavior.

8. Sun tans aren’t healthy.

The various components of the Hill-Rom Vest Airway Clearance System don’t react well to direct sunlight, even through a window.  UV radiation really ‘yellows’ the bright white Air Pulse Unit Cover.  In some cases, this can actually lead to cracking of the case.  It can also temporarily blacken the LCD display if it gets hot enough.  Hoses whiten in the sun and start to crack with enough exposure.  Vest garments ‘bleach’ and the material can become brittle.  Therefore, keep this system away from direct sunlight.

9. Use a surge protector, don’t leave it plugged in, and get a country-specific power cord

Here in Colorado, we have lots of lightning strikes.  People regularly lose electronic equipment due to power surges.  That is why it is a good idea to use a good quality surge protector to prevent your air pulse unit from damage due to electrical spikes.

Along those lines, don’t leave the unit plugged in when you are not using it.  Or, turn off the surge protector to cut power to the air pulse unit.

There are many different outlet styles around the world.  You can buy an inexpensive adapter, or better yet, a heavy-duty power cord specific to your country’s power outlets.  These power cords should be hospital-grade, rated to 10 amps at 110 – 250 volts, and have an IEC 60320-1  C13 end as shown below.


If you have any great stories about keeping your Hill-Rom Vest Airway Clearance System safe (or attempts at doing so), we’d love to hear from you. Please send us a note by clicking here.


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