Cystic fibrosis

Treatment for cystic fibrosis

There's currently no cure for cystic fibrosis, but treatment can help control the symptoms.

They can make the condition easier to live with and could slow down the damage that the condition causes.

Your child will be cared for by a team of specialist health care professionals, based at a children’s treatment centre. They’ll have a care plan designed for their individual needs.

Lungs

It is harder to clear sticky mucus from the lungs. A combination of physiotherapy and medication can help control lung infections and reduce the build-up of mucus. It’s normal for people with cystic fibrosis to spend at least one hour a day having treatment to keep their lungs healthy.

Physiotherapy

Children with cystic fibrosis usually need physiotherapy every day. The physiotherapy sessions can be between 15 minutes and one hour long, and they might need more than one session a day.

Physiotherapy helps to clear your child’s airways by shifting mucus that has built up in their lungs. They may also need medication at the same time. Your child’s physiotherapist will show you how to continue regular treatment at home. 

It can help to read aloud to your child or to have the TV, an audio book or some music on while doing the physiotherapy. Try to make it into close time with your child, not just a chore.

Medication

People with cystic fibrosis are more vulnerable to chest infections. If your child gets a chest infection, they will need to have antibiotics.

There are a number of other medicines that might be used to help the lungs work properly. These include:

  • medicines to make the mucus in the lungs thinner and easier to cough up
  • medicines called bronchodilators which widen the airways and reduce inflammation

Lung transplant

Repeated lung infections can damage the lungs. Eventually they may not be able to get enough oxygen.  Though good treatment can help to slow this process, current treatment can’t stop it. For some people with cystic fibrosis, a double lung transplant becomes the only option.

Enzyme supplements

Cystic fibrosis can stop the pancreas working properly. This means that the body doesn’t have the enzymes it needs to digest food properly.

Most people with cystic fibrosis will take enzyme supplements to help them digest food.

Special diet

Children with cystic fibrosis lose a lot of calories because they can’t digest their food properly. They need to eat a very high fat, high calorie, high protein diet and may need to take certain dietary supplements.

Last medically reviewed: September 2016. Due for review: September 2019

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.