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Health Issue: Cystic Fibrosis

Living Your Life

If you have a child with cystic fibrosis, one of the best things you can do is to learn as much as possible about the disease. Diet, medication and early recognition of infection are important.

Also important for most patients is performing daily chest percussion to drain mucus from your child’s lungs. Your doctor or respiratory therapist can show you the best way to perform this lifesaving procedure.

In addition, the following steps can help aid your child’s health:

  • Keep your child’s immunizations up to date. In addition to other usual childhood vaccines, this includes the pneumococcal and influenza vaccines. Cystic fibrosis doesn’t affect the immune system, but children with cystic fibrosis are more likely to develop complications when they become sick.
  • Encourage your child to lead as normal and active a life as possible. Exercise is extremely important for people of all ages who have cystic fibrosis. Regular exercise helps loosen mucus in your airways and strengthens your heart and lungs. And for many people with cystic fibrosis, participating in sports can improve confidence and self-esteem. It isn’t necessary to take part in an organized sport or take classes at a gym. Anything that gets you moving, including walking and biking, can help.
  • Make sure your child eats a healthy diet. Be sure to discuss your child’s dietary needs with your doctor or a nutritionist.
  • Use nutrition supplements. Provide the fat-soluble vitamin supplements and pancreatic enzymes your child needs to stay as healthy as possible.
  • Emphasize liquids. Encourage your child to drink plenty of liquids to help loosen the mucus. This is especially important in the summer when children are active and tend to lose a lot of fluids.
  • Eliminate smoke. Don’t smoke in your home or car, and don’t allow other people to smoke around your child. Secondhand smoke is harmful for everyone, but especially for people with cystic fibrosis.
  • Encourage hand washing. Teach everyone in your family to wash their hands thoroughly before eating, after using the bathroom, when coming home from work or school, and after being around a person who is sick. Hand washing is the best way to protect against infection.

Today, the average life span for persons with CF who live to adulthood is approximately 35 years, a dramatic increase over the last three decades. Death is usually caused by lung complications.