Could my daughter have cystic fibrosis?


Your daughter has had many illnesses of the upper and lower respiratory tract and may well have allergies. Children with allergies often have recurrent ear and sinus infections as well as enlarged tonsils and adenoids. Of course many of these children also have asthma. And yes, some of these same respiratory tract problems are common in children with cystic fibrosis.

Cystic fibrosis, or CF, is an inherited disorder that occurs in about 1 in 3,000 Caucasian children and much less often in African-American, Hispanic or Asian children. Cystic fibrosis is present at birth but may not be apparent until much later. The gene that causes CF results in abnormally thick and “saltier” secretions from the mucus, sweat and many other glands, especially those that line the nose, ears and lung passages. In CF, the pancreas cannot produce the enzymes necessary to absorb food well from the intestines. So children with CF often don’t grow well and have difficulties with pneumonia and chronic lung disease, in addition to problems similar to allergic children — nose, ear and sinus problems, and asthma. Some children have very mild CF manifestations and may not be diagnosed until adolescence or even adulthood.

Fortunately, the test for CF is very reliable when done at a medical center or a cystic fibrosis center. This “sweat test” is painless and involves collecting the sweat from a child’s arm for an hour or two while she plays. Results are available the same day.

By all means, have the sweat test done, but also ask your doctor about allergy testing and about a possible referral to an allergist to best manage your daughter’s respiratory symptoms. Also, be sure your daughter is not exposed to tobacco smoke, which will aggravate her ear, sinus and lung problems.

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