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What are the Signs of Cystic Fibrosis in Children?

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  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 27 August 2016
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Signs of cystic fibrosis can show up anywhere from infancy to adulthood, but this condition is usually diagnosed before the end of childhood. One of the most common symptoms of cystic fibrosis in children is excessive salt in the sweat, as their abnormal sweat glands secrete this mineral more readily than in most people. There are also many digestive issues that occur, such as bloating caused by constipation, and a resultant lack of appropriate weight gain over time. Additionally, many children experience respiratory issues, including constant wheezing and coughing due to the abnormally thick mucus being present in the body.

Radically elevated salt levels in the body is one the most obvious symptoms of cystic fibrosis in children, which tends to show up in excess in certain bodily fluids, such as sweat and tears. This is because the sweat glands do not work normally in patients with this condition. Thus, parents may notice that their child's skin is unusually salty. In fact, one of the most common ways of diagnosing cystic fibrosis in children is a sweat test, in which doctors look for elevated levels of salt in this bodily fluid.

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Another major sign of cystic fibrosis is the presence of digestive issues, as this disease tends to result in mucus that is thicker than usual, eventually blocking the pathway of digestive enzymes. When these enzymes cannot travel from the pancreas to the small intestine, the majority of nutrients are not properly absorbed by the body. The result is poor growth, as well as slow weight gain. Constipation eventually occurs, causing bloating and abdominal pain, and any stools that are produced are usually greasy and particularly malodorous. In addition, it should be noted that pancreatitis is not an uncommon affliction due to the thick mucus coating the pancreas.

Respiratory issues are also often indicative of cystic fibrosis in children, as the thick mucus tends to clog up the airways. Thus, many children with this condition suffer from a constant cough that produces very little, if anything, since the mucus is too thick to cough up. This means that it stays in the lungs, where it can attract bacteria and result in lung infections that are both recurrent and dangerous. Constant sinus infections are also common symptoms of cystic fibrosis in children. In fact, the nasal passages are often so congested that the nose may develop polyps, or sacs filled with tissue and fluids, resulting in pain and difficulty breathing.

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