Cystic Fibrosis – A Threat To Newborns

Cystic Fibrosis is a hereditary disease that affects one in every 1000 newborn babies. It is also known as fibrocystic disease of the pancreas and mucoviscidosis. Symptoms normally appear during the first few weeks of life and very rapidly become severe.

In rare cases the disease appears in puberty. At one time cystic fibrosis caused death in early childhood, but now many children with the disease survive into adolescence. Cystic fibrosis is a condition which causes the failure of the glands which produce mucus in the lungs and pancreas, and sweat in the skin.

The mucus glands in the lungs produce instead a thick, sticky septum that clogs and dilates the air passage causing bronchiectasis. This leads to severe breathing difficulties and respiratory infections. The pancreas degenerates, and the resulting lack of pancreatic digestive juices means that not enough fat is absorbed from the intestines.

Symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis

1. The baby is fretful, fails to thrive and puts on weight.

2. The baby has a glossy swollen abdomen, but the rest of the body is thin and wasted.

3. Steatorrhoea – the baby passes large, clay-colored stool, which is frothy and has an extremely offensive odor.

4. In some cases the child may also be anemic.

5. The baby’s cheeks have a blue tinge and he/she experiences violent bouts of coughing followed by breathing difficulties.


Some babies with Cystic Fibrosis may have meconium ileus at birth. This is an accumulation of sticky intestinal debris blocking the small bowl. This condition is corrected in a difficult and hazardous operation. Other complications that may arise with this condition include respiratory infections, pneumonia, heart ailments , liver and gallbladder diseases and digestive problems.

Caring for a child with Cystic Fibrosis

There is no cure for Cystic Fibrosis, however, the symptoms of the disease may be relieved.Parents can be trained to look after a child at home. This will include physiotherapy training on how to massage the chest in order to ease breathing difficulties, and advise on preparing diets, administering drugs and food supplements.

Parents would also need to take care not to expose their child to excessively crowded places, pollution, smoke or any other condition that could be a source of respiratory infection.

Prevention of Cystic Fibrosis

It is not possible to prevent Cystic Fibrosis from occurring. However, if a member of your family has suffered from the disease. It would be sensible to consult a doctor before having children or planning a pregnancy.