As with any major illness or disease, education is important to help you and your doctor manage the disease. You should have continuing medical treatment from a staff of doctors, nurses, and respiratory therapists who specialize in treating cystic fibrosis. If you are unsure of what doctor to choose you can find a specialist at most major medical centers or a list can be found on the CF Foundation Centers website.
Taking care of yourself or a family member with cystic fibrosis includes good care. Eating a healthy diet is important. Malnutrition, rickets, dehydration and other serious symptoms can occur because the body does not absorb essential nutrients it needs. Drink plenty of fluids. This will keep you from becoming dehydrated and cause more complications with your disease.
Smoking is a habit that always will worsen a disease or medical condition. Because cystic fibrosis affects the lungs and bronchial airways, smoking will further complicate cystic fibrosis. If you are raising a child with CF, avoid smoking in the house. If you must smoke, go outside so your child can avoid inhaling second-hand smoke. If you are a smoker with cystic fibrosis, stop smoking. You will improve your quality of life and give you a longer life span.
Exercise often. Make exercise a part of your daily routine. This will help strengthen your cardiopulmonary system and help fight infections that may attack your weakened lungs and air passages. Chest therapy must be done every day! Parents will be instructed on how to give their child chest therapy and adults can learn to do their own therapy.
You want to avoid infections. You need to wash your hands often to avoid picking up a bacteria or germ that can cause respiratory infections. You may want to carry a small waterless hand cleaning liquid in case you find yourself in a place where you cannot wash your hands. You should also have all recommended flu and other vaccinations that are appropriate. Flu and pneumonia vaccinations may help you avoid complications with cystic fibrosis that can be life threatening.
If you are on medication for cystic fibrosis, take it as prescribed. Most men who have cystic fibrosis are infertile but can be helped by a reproductive specialist and newly discovered techniques. Most women with CF will be less fertile than those who do not have the disease but they will still be able to have children. You should talk to your doctor before you become pregnant if you are a carrier and your spouse is a carrier also. Family medical histories can be important to the health of your future children.
Last, keep a positive attitude. Living with cystic fibrosis is not easy but a positive attitude can help. If you are a carrier and have passed the disease on to one of your children, stop feeling guilty! You don’t have to be overprotective. You can encourage your child to be strong, active, and self-reliant. They will mimic your attitude about their disease!