Cystic Fibrosis in Children: Common Signs, Symptoms, and Treatments 

Woman with son doing inhalation with nebulizer at home. Causian little boy making inhalation with nebulizer. Child having respiratory illness helped by mother with inhalerYour child is everything. So the minute you see or think you see something is different, you think the worst. All parents go through this and many times their eyes deceive them and it is merely a lag in development, a unique characteristic, or a minor condition. With today’s healthcare advancements, children grow up under the constant supervision of seasoned pediatricians and doctors that specialize in the conditions developed in children. One of these chronic conditions is cystic fibrosis, which currently affects about 30,000 children and adults in the United States. Luckily, the numbers are not that high because this is a condition that has to be inherited and picked up from both parents. So what is cystic fibrosis? How common is it? And when might you visit a doctor about your child’s possibility? Let’s delve into this a little further. 

What is Cystic Fibrosis? 

If a child is born with cystic fibrosis, it means that both parents had to have carried at least one copy of the gene. Even then, when two carriers with one copy of the gene, the child has a 25% chance of developing the condition. If a child inherits the gene from only one parent, they will be carriers but will not inherit the condition. Thus, chances to get the condition can be speculated when looking at the family history of both parents. The gene that is affected is called the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator and is responsible for the movement of salt and water in and out of cells. Because of this, the body’s production or functioning of the CFTR protein and causes the buildup of thick mucus. This can lead to recurring lung infections, damage to the pancreas, and complications in other organs. 

How is CF Diagnosed?

There are several ways that parents can find out about their child’s chance of having cystic fibrosis. Children can be diagnosed during a type of newborn screening. Most children, however, develop symptoms of the condition before their first birthday. Each child is different and the type and severity will vary. In some children, signs of the condition don’t appear until much later. If a doctor suspects signs of CF, they will likely order a sweat test. It is painless and quite simple: it involves placing a small electrode onto the skin to get sweat glands to produce sweat. The amount of chloride is measured. A person or child with an abnormal amount of chloride might indicate the presence of Cystic Fibrosis. 

Some of the symptoms might include:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Recurrent lung infections or sinus infections
  • Asthma-like symptoms that include coughing and wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing up blood or mucus
  • Trouble with bowel movements or foul-smelling stools
  • And more

What are Some of the Common Treatments or Measures Taken?

The severity of the condition is different from child to child, so there is no one prescribed treatment. Most of the time, treatment will include a variety of interventions and lifestyle changes. Some of these include:

  • A pancreatic enzyme supplement
  • Multivitamins, especially those that are fat-soluble like A, D, E, and K
  • Incorporating plenty of salt in the diet
  • Clearing the lungs frequently 
  • Adding liquid medicines in mist form through a nebulizer

What Does My Child’s Life Look Like With CF?

Current treatments and interventions can be effective at improving quality of life and allowing children to grow and transition into adulthood in a productive and healthy way. Most patients will need some kind of daily treatment but can resume normal life, attend school, and participate in activities. Advancements and research in recent years have led to an increase in life expectancy and quality of life. 

Exercise and an active lifestyle are encouraged, even though it might be difficult. Staying active helps build exercise tolerance, respiratory muscle endurance, and reduces the rate of decline of pulmonary functions. 

Worried Your Child May Have CF? Let Us Help. 

The human body is a testament to the complexity and intelligence of nature. Our bodies are designed to perform hundreds of functions, our cells composed of specific proteins, molecules, and elements, all to come together to form our various organ systems. The disruption of one protein chain is often all it takes to produce a condition. And yet, modern science and medicine are so advanced that we now have insight into many conditions that allow the development of treatments and happy life. 

If you suspect that your child may have inherited the condition, your pediatrician is the first line of defense and can walk you through your child’s specific circumstance. Call El Paso Family and Pediatricians today to see a trusted pediatrician. 

The above is not to substitute medical advice from a physician. Call your child’s doctor for more information on cystic fibrosis. 

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