Health Hint! – Early Detection Signs: Cystic Fibrosis

Feb 8, 2022

Federated Health Charities’ mission is to improve the health and quality of life of all Ontarians by supporting 21 different health charities providing critical services to those experiencing, or affected by, illness.  We believe education and prevention are key parts of supporting the health of our communities so our weekly Health Hint series strives to provide tangible and easy to implement hints and tips on how to maintain your health, prevent disease, and enjoy increased quality of life.  Check out our latest Health Hint which is the second article in a new series called Early Detection.   This series will highlight some of the early detection signs for many of our 21 illnesses to work towards earlier diagnosis and more favorable treatment outcomes.  We hope you find it helpful.  If you would like to join our efforts to support the health of Ontario please consider a donation to Federated Health Charities.

What is Cystic Fibrosis?

Did you know that one in 3600 children suffer from Cystic Fibrosis in Canada? Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is indeed a wide-spreading disease affecting many families today. Approximately 1 in every 25 Canadians are carriers of the gene responsible for CF. For example if CF carrier parents have a child, there is a 50% chance that the child will be a carrier, a 25% chance that the child will be diagnosed with CF, and a 25% chance that the child will not have or carry CF.

CF is a genetically inherited disease affecting the respiratory, digestive, and potentially reproductive systems. In healthy individuals, the mucus, digestive juices, and other bodily secretions are meant to lubricate, and are therefore thin and slippery in texture. When diagnosed with CF, these fluids are thickened, causing blockage, clogs, and disturbances in one’s vital organs.

CF is a life-long disorder and unfortunately, there is no cure for it yet. Fortunately, many treatment options and resources are being created to support families right from the diagnosis stage. First, let’s look at signs and symptoms of CF in children.

What should you look out for?

Because the severity of CF varies from person to person, there can be various symptoms associated with it. Mayo Clinic outlines the symptoms and signs to look out for in the respiratory and digestive systems.


  • Coughing thick mucus
  • Wheezing
  • Inflamed airways or stuffy nose
  • Repeated lung infections


  • Foul-smelling and/or greasy stools
  • Poor weight gain and growth
  • Chronic or severe constipation (Could result in rectal prolapse)

These symptoms can worsen and could trigger frightful complications overtime. A few of these are listed below.

  • Reduced or complete infertility
  • Increased salt levels in sweat
  • Respiratory failure
  • Damaged airways
  • Coughing up blood
  • Liver disease
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Thinning of bones (Osteoporosis)
  • Mental health problems

Contacting your healthcare provider

In most provinces, CF can be detected in a newborn-screening procedure. Newborns are taken for a blood test to screen for any chronic illnesses or diseases. This procedure can at least indicate the following

  • Tested positive because a CF produced chemical is found. Further testing (sweat test to measure increased salt levels) is needed. Most likely, the newborn will be tested positive for CF is the sweat test and symptoms match the CF guidelines.
  • Tested inconclusive because results show positive, but the symptoms and behaviors of the child don’t match the guidelines of CF.

The best part about newborn screening is that once a doctor confirms the diagnosis, the treatment process and planning can begin right away. As for those who don’t have access to newborn screening, they may start their treatment process later.

For instances where newborn screening isn’t available, families are encouraged to look out for symptoms and contact their healthcare practitioner to get a diagnosis. The most common symptoms are chronic coughing, irregular bowel movement, and insufficient weight gain.

Useful resources

Federated Health is a proud supporter of Cystic Fibrosis Canada. On this page, you can learn more about CF and how you can contribute and connect with this community. You can attend events, volunteer, and learn more about the impact of CF in families today.

Written by Shiyami Selvapavan


Cystic Fibrosis Canada

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