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Cystic fibrosis and infection control

What is infection control?

Infection control means using ways to prevent or reduce the spread of infection. Infection control can keep your child healthy and is an important part of cystic fibrosis care.

Why is infection control important for people with cystic fibrosis?

Infections (‘bugs’, or bacteria) can lead to lung damage in people with cystic fibrosis. It is important to reduce the risk of catching or spreading bacteria that can cause lung infections by using infection control. 1 way of reducing the risk of infection is to limit contact with known bacterial sources.

How is infection spread?

Direct contact

By infected respiratory fluid from another person such as kissing and shaking hands and by cross-infection between people who have cystic fibrosis.

Indirect contact

By an object or person with infected respiratory secretions such as drinking from a shared glass, toys, respiratory equipment (such as nebulisers and handling spirometry equipment).


By respiratory droplets that are infected with bacteria spread by coughing and sneezing.

How can we reduce the risk of spreading infection?


Handwashing is the most important thing you can do to prevent the spread of infection. Although bacteria are everywhere and cannot be avoided, one of the best ways to keep from spreading infection is through effective handwashing with soap and water or hand gel.

When should you wash or gel your hands?

You should wash or gel your hands:

  • after coughing and sneezing
  • at shared play areas
  • before and after respiratory treatment such as physiotherapy
  • when entering and leaving the hospital or cystic fibrosis clinic
  • before and after doing your ‘blows’ (respiratory function test)

People with colds

Where possible, everyone with cystic fibrosis should avoid unnecessary contact with people who have a cold or other contagious illness.

Cross infection

Cross infection can happen between people with cystic fibrosis. Cross infection is when bacteria are spread from person-to-person.

Some people with cystic fibrosis may spread bacteria that others with cystic fibrosis do not have. So mixing with other people with cystic fibrosis should be avoided.

Casual meetings between people with cystic fibrosis, including brief meetings indoors and outdoors, carry a low risk of infection. This risk is increased the longer and closer the contact.

Other things to think about

Make sure all equipment and toys are cleaned regularly and dried thoroughly. Do not use toys that could hold water inside and are difficult to clean or dry out properly.

Always make sure dummies are thoroughly cleaned and sterilised. Allow tooth brushes to dry after use.

Some domestic pets can be a source of bacteria, particularly if they have ear or eye infections. People with cystic fibrosis should avoid pets that are unwell and always wash your hands after handling pets. Also avoid the cleaning of tropical fish tanks.

Greenhouses and indoor garden centres where there are damp warm conditions may be a risk of bacteria, as well as play in soil or gardening activities. Wear gardening gloves for activities and remember to wash your hands afterwards. Compost should be avoided as there is a higher risk of infection.

Damp straw in stables is a proven risk of infection and if people with cystic fibrosis go horse riding they should avoid ‘mucking out’ stables or being in the stables when this is happening.

Outdoor sand pits, water in play areas and shared play-doh can also be a source of bacteria. Nursery and school staff should provide clean safe sand and play-doh for play indoors.

Wash all fruit and vegetables thoroughly including those described as ready washed in packets and cook all mushrooms.

Check the swimming pool used is serviced regularly and reliably and avoid forms of aerated baths such as hot tubs and Jacuzzis.

Make sure plastic bottles and containers used for drinking are rinsed with boiling water before refilling. Allow tap water to run for a minute if used for the first time that day.


It is important to keep up to date with routine vaccinations.

It is important that you become educated about how to protect your child and others, however it is also important that you do not become stressed about infection control issues.

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: CF11

Resource Type: Article

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