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Cystic fibrosis facts for kids

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Cystic fibrosis
Dorothy Hansine Andersen
Dorothy Hansine Andersen first described cystic fibrosis in 1938 (photo at National Library of Medicine)

Cystic fibrosis (also known as mucoviscidosis, CF, and 65 roses) is a condition a person may get from their parents. It causes the body to make thick, sticky mucus, which builds up in the lungs, the digestive system and other parts of the body. If both parents have the cystic-fibrosis gene, and pass it onto their child, the child will get cystic fibrosis. A cystic-fibrosis gene is needed from each parent. The parent might not have cystic fibrosis but still might have the gene. A person with cystic fibrosis is not contagious (they can't give it to anyone else). There is no cure for cystic fibrosis but there are a lot of medications that help keep people healthy.

What CF does to the body

Cystic fibrosis affects the entire body. Overall the body has trouble moving salt to the parts of the body that need it. Since the body has trouble moving salt, it piles up in places it is not supposed to like the lungs, stomach and intestines.


In the lungs when salt gets stuck it causes there to be less water which makes mucus to become very thick. It becomes very hard to breathe. The treatment for this is breathing medicine to help add water to the lungs to keep the mucus thinner so it is easier to cough up. When there is thinner and less mucus it is easier to breathe.


There is no cure for cystic fibrosis. Although, people can do things to stay healthy. Healthy habits keep the person from getting more sick. People can stay clean. People can stay away from germs. They can drink water to help the mucus go away. Taking enzymes help digest food if there is mucus in the stomach. Exercise clears mucus. It builds strong muscles and bones and strengthens the lungs. Taking vitamins helps the body fight off the infection. It also helps the body grow and function well.

  • Inhaled antibiotics are used to keep bacteria from growing in the thick mucus.
  • Inhaled salt-water helps keep the lungs moisturized

Testing for cystic fibrosis

  • Sweat chloride test - this tests the salt level of a persons sweat.
  • Genetic test - this is used if the sweat test is positive to see if they have both genes.

65 roses

"65 roses" is how some children refer to their condition since cystic fibrosis is difficult for a young child to say. '65 Roses' is also a trademarked phrase by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to help control its use. It is a very helpful way for young children to understand. When spoken aloud, it sounds similar to cystic fibrosis.

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