Many children today are diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF) before they have any symptoms. This is because of an increase in newborn screening programs. Before screening programs existed, most children with CF were diagnosed after one of the following:
Respiratory symptoms such as cough, wheezing, or breathing difficulty
Meconium ileus (a thick and sticky first bowel movement of a baby that can block the small intestine)
Failure to thrive (not gaining weight as is normal after birth)
The following are the most common symptoms for CF. Symptoms also may depend on when your child is diagnosed:
Salty tasting skin
Chronic respiratory symptoms like wheezing, cough, and thick sputum that is sometimes bloody
Poor weight gain and growth
Greasy and bulky stools
These are other medical problems that may occur in some children with CF:
Sinusitis or infection of the sinuses
Nasal polyps or an abnormal growth out of the mucus membranes of the nose
Clubbing of fingers and toes. This is a condition marked by the widening and rounding of the tips of the fingers and toes due to lack of enough oxygen in the bloodstreem.
Pneumothorax or collapsed lung. The presence of air or gas in the area around the lungs that causes the lung to collapse.
Hemoptysis, or coughing up blood
Cor pulmonale. Right-sided heart failure from long-term high blood pressure in the lung arteries.
Gas in the intestines
Rectal prolapse or a protruding of the rectum out of the anus
Pancreatitis. This is an inflammation of the pancreas, an organ that creates many hormones and enzymes the body needs to function properly.
Congenital bilateral absence of the vas deferens in males
As stated above, the symptoms of CF differ for each child. Infants born with CF usually show symptoms within the first year. Some children, though, may not show symptoms until later in life. The following symptoms may indicate CF, and infants having these signs may be tested for CF:
Diarrhea that doesn’t go away
Frequent episodes of wheezing
Frequent episodes of pneumonia
Skin tastes very salty
Poor weight gain and growth growth
Chronic sinus infection
The symptoms of CF sometimes look like other conditions or medical problems. Always see your child’s health care provider for a diagnosis.