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Staying Healthy

Make a Plan to Stay Healthy

Introduction to Cystic Fibrosis Cover

Download a copy of An Introduction to Cystic Fibrosis: For Patients and Their Families, a comprehensive book (202 pages) that covers everything from how CF is diagnosed to living with the disease as an adult.

Most people with cystic fibrosis can lead active lives – depending upon the severity of their disease – with routine therapies and regular visits to a Cystic Fibrosis Foundation-accredited care center.

Knowing your CF is important to stay healthy. Staff at CF Foundation-accredited care centers partner with people with CF to develop individual treatment plans. These plans typically include high-calorie, high-fat diets, therapies to loosen the clogged mucus from their airways, and mucus-thinning drugs and antibiotics when needed.

By following a treatment plan developed with their CF care center team, many people with CF can slow down the progression of their disease. A healthier body is better able to deal with bacteria and chronic lung infection.

Avoid the Spread of Germs

Cystic fibrosis puts the airways at risk for lung infections. There are, however, effective ways to lessen the risk. One way is to limit contact with known germ sources.

Although germs are everywhere and cannot be avoided, one of the best ways to keep from catching or spreading germs is through effective hand-washing, whether with soap and water or alcohol-based hand gels.

Everyone with CF should avoid unnecessary contact with people who have a cold or any other contagious illness, and should cough and sneeze into a tissue.

Learn more about methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). It’s all about good hand hygiene!

Flu season, which begins in August and lasts throughout the winter, is the time of year that the influenza virus is easiest to catch. The flu is considered highly contagious, because it can spread by direct contact, coughing, sneezing, and when an infected person touches a surface that others then use, like door knobs and railings. 

People with lung infections, including people with CF, can develop more serious cases of the flu, so it is important for you to get a flu shot to be immunized against the most prevalent strains. Learn more about the flu. 

Everyone with CF and members of their households who are at least 6 months old need to be vaccinated for both viruses.

For information about where to get a flu shot, contact your care center or use the American Lung Association's Flu Clinic Locator to find the closest flu clinic near you.

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Diet – Watch What You Eat

An important factor for staying healthy is good nutrition. Thick mucus often gets in the way of proper digestion, causing malabsorption. This problem is treated with pancreatic enzyme supplements, vitamins and a high-calorie, high-fat diet.

  • CF Diet – In CF, a high-calorie, high-fat diet is vital for normal growth and development in children, and offers adults a way to maintain optimal health. The dietitians at CF Foundation-accredited care centers work with patients and their families to map out the best diet for each person.

    Nutrition and general lung health are closely linked. People with cystic fibrosis may need extra calories to compensate for the malabsorption of nutrients. These extra calories also help to meet the greater energy needed for breathing. In fact, for children with CF, extra fat calories are good for fueling normal growth and development. 

    For ideas about how to fit getting extra calories into a busy lifestyle, read Grab ‘N Go! Meal & Snack Ideas for People with CF on the Run.

    Use the pamphlet Color Your Calories: Adding Antioxidants to Your High-Calorie CF Diet to find out how to add nutrient-rich calories to what you eat every day.

  • Pancreatic Enzyme Supplements – Almost everyone with cystic fibrosis needs to take pancreatic enzyme supplements with meals and snacks. Taken by mouth, the enzymes go to work in the intestines to help digest food so it can be absorbed by the body. Patients should always check with their doctor or dietitian to know the exact amount of enzymes to take.

  • Vitamins and Minerals – Most people with cystic fibrosis do not absorb fats properly, so certain vitamins, or "fat-soluble" vitamins, are not absorbed. These vitamins are Vitamins A, D, E and K. People with CF usually take these vitamins daily. Minerals, like calcium, iron, sodium chloride and zinc, are also essential to maintaining good health through nutrition. Certain foods are good sources of these minerals and they are also available as supplements.

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Cystic Fibrosis-related Diabetes – Keeping Sugar in Check

As people with cystic fibrosis get older, their risk of getting diabetes increases. With CF, scarring often occurs in the pancreas, which produces insulin for the body. This scarring sometimes prevents insulin from getting into the blood and could lead to diabetes.

CF Foundation-accredited care centers regularly check each patient for diabetes, usually once a year. Learn more about cystic fibrosis-related diabetes.

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Lung Health – Thank You for Not Smoking

Some environmental factors in daily life can damage lung health. For instance, second-hand smoke is particularly harmful to people with cystic fibrosis. Keeping airways healthier means not smoking and keeping the environment smoke-free.

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Nebulizers – Clearing the Airways

Since inhaled drugs more easily reach the airways, they are common in cystic fibrosis care. Inhaled treatments can be given by aerosol, a mist treatment made from liquid medicines. In this case, the drug goes into a cup (nebulizer) and is attached to a small air compressor. The compressor blows air through the cup and makes a mist. Cystic fibrosis patients inhale the small particles in the mist through a mask or mouthpiece for several minutes to help clear the mucus.

Medicines can also be given as metered dose inhalers, which deliver one dose of medicine at a time.

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Lung Health – Exercise

Exercise is important to maintain lung health, especially for people with CF. Learn about the different kinds of exercise you can safely do on a daily basis from Day to Day Exercise and CF. Included in the brochure is a fun lung worksheet you can print to track your exercise activity!

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The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is an accredited charity of the Better Business Bureau.