In order to maintain optimal health and prevent infections, caregivers and individuals need to stay on top of daily treatments. Daily chest percussion therapy (CPT) is an important treatment to prevent the build- up of mucous in the lungs. Without daily CPT, people with CF are much more like to develop chronic respiratory illnesses.
Following a strict daily routine of medication therapy is also essential in maintaining good health. Pancreatic enzymes with each meal help your body breakdown foods for absorption. Without these pancreatic enzymes, CFer’s run the risk of malnutrition and intestinal obstructions.
It is very important to follow your medication regimen prescribed by your physician very closely. If you have questions pertaining to your prescribed medications, contact your CF center or physician.
A well balanced diet is crucial for weight gain, a strong immune system, and overall good health. Often we hear people with CF being told that they can have a diet comprised of fast foods and sweets. These foods may be high in fat but lack essential nutrients that the body needs for energy.
It is important for people with CF to have fat in their diets, but this fat needs to come from the right foods. Most fat intake should come from healthy fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats can be found in foods like avocados, olive oil, canola oil, walnuts, cashews, almonds, flax seed, salmon, and tuna. Limit saturated fats that can be found in foods like red meats, coconut oil, and baked goods. Healthy foods can contain as much fat as foods filled with unsaturated fat. For example, six slices of avocado has more total fat than one slice of cheese.
Meals need to be rich in calories, fat, sodium, and especially vitamins and minerals. Incorporating vitamins and minerals needs to be more emphasized in the CF diet, because they play vital roles in the body, including the production of energy, cell repair, increasing the absorption other nutrients, and much more. It is important to take your daily vitamin supplement, but these vitamins and minerals should also be obtained through eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables daily.
Individuals with CF should live an active lifestyle. Exercising daily expands lung capacity, increases strength and endurance, and improves airway clearance thereby decreasing lung infections. Due to these benefits, exercise should be considered an extension of your daily treatments. Cardiovascular exercises are recommended, but training needs to be adjusted to meet each individuals physical abilities. Contact your physician and trainer about designing a workout suited for you abilities. Incorporating physical activity into your daily routine will make you feel better and increase your quality of life.
The best way to prevent lung infections is by limiting exposure to harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Microorganisms that may only cause a cough or runny nose in most people could lead to a very severe infection in people with CF. This section is dedicated to ways individuals, parents, and caregivers can prevent individuals with CF from being exposed to harmful organisms.
- If possible, it is best to not enroll your child or infant in daycare. Daycare exposes your child to much more bacteria from other children than you would find in your own home. This puts your child at an increased risk of developing lung infections. Remember, your child’s lungs are growing rapidly during the first two years of their lives and having recurrent lung infections could not only delay growth during this crucial stage of development, but it could cause permanent damage to lung tissue. As your child grows older, their lungs are more developed, so it makes it easier to fight off infections. Therefore, enrolling them in grade school does not pose as much of an increased risk as enrollment in daycare during the infant and toddler stages.
- Do not be in direct contact with people that are currently sick. Talk with family prior to holidays to inquire about anybody being currently or recently sick. If you see an individual with a productive cough and runny nose, do not let your child with CF come in contact with them and politely distance yourselves from them. You have to be an advocate for your child’s health, so do not be afraid of offending family, friends, or others in order to keep your child healthy. Just remember to be honest and polite when addressing individuals.
- Hand washing and hand sanitization are two easy ways to prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria between individuals. When people sneeze, cough, or wipe their nose, microorganisms are easily spread to hands or surfaces. To prevent direct and indirect contact of bacteria and viruses wash hands with soap & water or use alcohol based hand sanitizer before handling or feeding your child.
- Smoke is an irritant to the lungs and can cause inflammation and damage to the lung tissue of people with CF. It is important for individuals with CF to avoid smoking environments. Inform family, friends, and others not to smoke around people with CF.
- Immunizations are an important part of avoiding complications associated with CF. Everyone with CF over the age of 6 months and those living with or caring for these individuals should get a yearly flu vaccine. For children age two and under, a RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) vaccine is strongly advised to prevent pneumonia and bronchiolitis associated with this microbe. Make sure to speak with your CF center or primary care doctor about these vaccinations.