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When someone has cystic fibrosis (CF), it means their lungs don’t work properly and they may also have difficulty digesting food.

What is it like for siblings if their brother or sister has CF?

Lots of siblings have very positive relationships with their brothers and sisters who have CF. Other siblings might find it hard because they can’t kiss and cuddle their brothers and sisters if they have a cough or a cold. This is because they may pass on germs which might make their brothers and sisters unwell. Siblings can feel left out because daily physiotherapy can take up a lot of time. They can also feel frustrated at not being able to go out and do as much as other families because of the time spent doing the physiotherapy. They may get fed up with hearing the noisy coughing. Children with CF often have to eat food which is high in fat and sugar. They may need to eat lots of things like ice cream and chocolate. This can be hard for siblings who may be encouraged to eat different foods like fruit and vegetables and may feel that they are missing out.

What causes CF?

CF is a genetic condition that someone is born with. It is passed from parents to children. It cannot be caught like a cold. In some families it will affect some children, but not others. All babies have a blood test when they are born. This will usually show if they have CF.

What does it mean?

Not all children are affected in the same way. Some are affected more and some less. CF does not affect a person’s brain so children with CF still go to preschool and school. CF causes sticky mucus, that’s a bit like glue, to build up in their lungs and digestive system. This may make them cough a lot, wheeze and get lots of chest infections. They may not grow quickly, not put on weight, get constipated or have to go into hospital at times.

What treatment is there?

There is no cure for CF but there are many treatments that help people who have it. These may include:

  • physiotherapy for their lungs
  • exercise
  • medicines to make the mucus thinner and to make breathing easier
  • a special diet that helps with digestion

Children with CF need to have lots of exercise to help with their breathing. Toddlers often like running, jumping and trampolining. At school, children with CF can take part in P.E. and games just like other children in their class.