If you have cystic fibrosis (CF), you have a higher risk of getting lung and sinus infections. That’s because CF leads to thick, sticky mucus buildup in your airways. The mucus traps germs and makes it easier for them to grow. As your body’s immune system tries to fight these trapped germs, your lungs can become inflamed or swollen.
Infections can cause CF symptoms to get worse for a period of time, also known as flare-ups. Over time, repeated infections may even cause lung damage. Lung infections are one of the most serious CF problems. But you, your family and caregivers can take simple steps to help avoid germs and stay healthier.
Watch for symptoms.
It’s important to watch for common signs of lung and sinus infections like:
- Changes in your mucus or breathing
- Headaches and body aches
- Sore throat
- Stuffy or runny nose
Because some symptoms of infections can be confused with CF flare-ups, see your doctor before self-treating an infection or using over-the-counter medications.
Follow your treatment plan.
If you get sick, your doctor may prescribe medications, like antibiotics, to fight your infection. These medications may have special instructions on how to take them. Be sure to finish the entire antibiotic course exactly as prescribed, even if you start to feel better. The infection may come back if you stop early and can become even harder to treat.
There are simple things you can do every day to help keep your lungs clearer and prevent infections.
- Wash your hands regularly. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Cover your cough or sneeze. This can help prevent germs from spreading to others, including others with CF.
- Keep a safe distance. Stay at least six feet away from other people with CF or anyone who is sick, if possible.
- Don’t share personal items. To avoid germs from spreading, don’t share objects like cups, utensils, toys and nebulizers.
- Clean and disinfect your nebulizer after each use. Follow instructions from your doctor or nurse.
- Stay on track with your daily CF treatments. If other family members have CF too, do your treatments in separate rooms.
- Keep up with vaccinations. Help your own immune system fight off harmful germs with the right vaccinations, at the right times. This includes the flu and pneumonia vaccines. Remind your family and friends to get vaccinated, too.
- Stay active. Exercise helps to clear mucus in the lungs, which can help prevent infections.
- Take care of your entire body. Get enough sleep and stay nourished to keep your defenses up.
- Take care of yourself when you travel. Bring a mask, hand sanitizer, bottled water, and disinfectant wipes to clean surfaces like armrests and seatbelt buckles.
Call your CVS Specialty CF CareTeam at 1-866-845-6790 for more tips on preventing and coping with lung infections.