There's no cure for CF. Treatment includes digestive enzyme supplements, dietary changes, immunizations, physical therapy, and medications. More recently, some CF patients with terminal lung disease have received lung transplants.
Children need to eat a well-balanced diet rich in calories and protein. A dietitian can help with meal planning. Sometimes this means taking in even more nutrients than the average child needs. When children are involved in activities that may make them hot or sweaty, they need to replace the salt they lose in their sweat. Children can be given salt tablets or salt-water solutions. Children with CF usually take extra vitamins.
Keeping a child's immunizations (vaccine shots) up to date is extremely important to protect them from infections. Talk to your doctor to be sure that your child gets all the necessary vaccines, especially for whooping cough (pertussis), influenza, chickenpox, and measles. Your child should get a flu shot and a pneumococcal vaccine every year or as recommended by your doctor. Keep a record of all your child's immunizations.
To loosen and bring up the extra mucus that builds up in the chest, a number of physical measures are used. These include "assisted coughing," drainage, and percussion (pounding on the chest or back to loosen mucus). Older children can learn how to perform these techniques on themselves.
A number of medications can help people with CF. Your doctor may prescribe:
- enzyme pills to be taken before eating to help digest food
- anti-inflammatories to slow the deterioration of the lungs
- antibiotics to treat or prevent lung infections
- inhaled medications to make breathing easier
- multivitamins (especially vitamins A, D, E, and K) to ensure proper nutrition for normal growth and development
The development that holds the greatest promise is gene therapy. CF is one of the few inherited diseases where just one gene is at fault. In other words, there's real reason to hope for a cure.
CF can't be prevented in a child with two copies of the defective CF gene. But it's possible to find out if you're at risk for having a child with CF. You and your partner can have genetic testing done to determine if you are both carriers.
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