People with cystic fibrosis have trouble fighting off germs and bacteria. Bacteria that won’t affect most people can make a person with CF very sick. People with CF must be more careful to avoid illnesses and fight harder to get rid of them.
Everyone has microorganisms, or tiny living things, living in their mouth and throat, but healthy lungs are sealed off. The mucus that builds up in the lungs of a person with CF cannot keep out harmful microorganisms. And once something unhealthy gets into the lung, it is harder to get it out.
Many people with CF live with chronic sinus and lung infection, or infections that are long-lasting or keep coming back. Chronic infection is the main cause of damage in their lungs. Chronic lung infection is the leading cause of death for people with cystic fibrosis, so it’s important that you are proactive about staying healthy.
The common cold and the flu are serious problems for people with CF. Those with CF aren’t more likely to catch these seasonal illnesses, but the illness might last longer or be more severe.
Early in life, children with CF will often catch Staphylococcus aureus and Haemophilus influenza. As they get older, these bacteria are usually replaced with Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a common bacteria that is dangerous for people with CF. Another common source of infection is Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA).
Symptoms and Diagnosis for Chronic Sinus and Lung Infection
People who have CF are probably very aware of their health and lung function. If congestion increases or breathing becomes more difficult, you should talk to your doctor. Feeling run down may be your body’s way of saying it is fighting an infection.
Your doctor will be testing your lungs regularly. They may also collect sputum (coughed up mucus) samples or perform other tests to look for infection. If you are between your regular appointments but feel like you might have an infection your doctor isn’t aware of, be sure to talk to them.
Avoidance and Treatment
The easiest infection to fight, is the one you never get. Wash your hands regularly and have antibacterial hand gels available on the go. Stay 6 feet away from sick people or others with cystic fibrosis. People with CF and their loved ones should get flu vaccinations every year.
Your doctor will know the best treatment for your infection. There are many antibiotics available; some, like Cayston, are made specifically for people with CF and lung infections. The important thing is to follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter. Multiple-drug-resistant organisms (MDRO) are an enormous problem for people with cystic fibrosis. MDRO are organisms that have adapted so that medicines won’t get rid of them. Always finish the entire round of antibiotics so that the bacteria in your lungs don’t build up a resistance.
By working with your doctor and following their instructions, you can manage infection and protect your lungs.
Learn About Controlling Infection. Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. July 20, 2012. Accessed March 13, 2015.
Lyczak J, Cannon C, and Pier G. Lung Infections Associated with Cystic Fibrosis. National Center for Biotechnology Information. April 15, 2002. Accessed March 13, 2015.
Alma L. The Most Common Organisms in Cystic Fibrosis Lung Infections. About.com. April 30, 2014. Accessed March 13, 2015.