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Tips for Preventing Infections

The equation is simple: Less germ exposure equals fewer infections. This is particularly important for people with cystic fibrosis (CF) who are at greater risk of developing lung infections. Thus, preventing these infections helps preserve lung function and improve quality of life for people with CF.

Hand hygiene

Our hands touch multiple objects and body parts constantly, without us thinking much about it. Each touch can pick up and spread bacteria, viruses, dust, molds and more, transferring these germs to the body’s entry points such as the eyes, nose or mouth.

Handwashing remains the number one way to prevent the spread of germs to people with CF. Everyone with CF, their family and friends should wash their hands with antimicrobial soap and water or an alcohol-based gel at the following times:

  • Before handling food, eating or drinking
  • Before and after CF treatments
  • After coughing or sneezing, using the bathroom, or touching shared objects such as doorknobs or phones
  • After touching or cleaning up after pets1,2

Cough hygiene

Coughs and sneezes can spread germs through tiny droplets that launch into the air. These germs may be breathed in by those within 6 feet and live for minutes to hours on surfaces. To prevent the spread of germs through coughing and sneezing, cover your mouth with a tissue or cough into your elbow. Wash your hands or clean them with an alcohol gel immediately after. Any used tissues should be thrown into the garbage right away.1

Avoiding other CF patients and sick people

People with CF spread lung infections to others with CF easily. That is why people with cystic fibrosis should remain at least 6 feet away from others with CF and anyone with a cold, flu, or other infection. This applies to outdoor settings, but it is especially important indoors such as at school or work.

The 6-foot rule comes from the fact that germs coughed out in tiny droplets can easily spread 6 feet. Several common activities should be avoided between people with CF, including:

  • Shaking hands, hugging, and kissing
  • Sharing car rides
  • Sharing hotel rooms
  • Sharing utensils or drinking cups
  • Attending the same classes at school or other settings like the gym1,2

People with CF should never share respiratory equipment like nebulizers, vests, and other airway clearance devices. They should also avoid spas, hot tubs, indoor play areas at malls, ball pits in stores, and other areas where many children pass through and cleaning may be less than ideal.

Cleaning equipment

Nebulizer disinfection is especially important since germs can live on the equipment and be breathed in upon next use. After each use, a nebulizer must be cleaned, disinfected, rinsed and left to air dry. Different types of nebulizers may require different cleaning and disinfecting methods. For instance, some may be cleaned with liquid soap while others may not. Some may be disinfected in a microwave steam sterilizer while others cannot.1 Vinegar, bleach solutions, and benzalkomium chloride (Control III) should not be used as nebulizer disinfectants.3

Avoiding dust and dirt

Dust and dirt particles make great vehicles for bacteria, viruses, and mold to get into your eyes, nose and mouth. To prevent the transmission of germs through dust and dirt, people with CF should limit the time spent on activities like gardening, mowing, and home renovation. When it’s possible to get advance notice, people with CF should work or study from home if their school or workplace is under construction.1

Vaccinations

Vaccinations, also known as immunizations or shots, help prevent a host of health problems before they get a chance to take hold. That’s why everyone with CF, and those closest to them, should get all of their recommended immunizations, including an annual flu shot.1,2

Mask use

People with CF should wear a mask covering the mouth and nose when walking around the hospital and in clinic waiting rooms to avoid picking up germs from other patients.1

Written by: Jessica Johns Pool | Last reviewed: September 2019
  1. Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. 8 Ways to Guard Against Germs in Everyday Life. Available at: https://www.cff.org/Life-With-CF/Daily-Life/Germs-and-Staying-Healthy/How-Can-You-Avoid-Germs/8-Ways-to-Guard-Against-Germs-in-Everyday-Life/ Accessed 6/5/2019.
  2. Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Introduction to Cystic Fibrosis. Available at: https://www.cff.org/Intro-to-CF.pdf. Accessed 6/5/2019.
  3. Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Infection Prevention and Control Clinical Care Guidelines. Available at: https://www.cff.org/Care/Clinical-Care-Guidelines/Infection-Prevention-and-Control-Clinical-Care-Guidelines/Infection-Prevention-and-Control-Clinical-Care-Guidelines. Accessed 6/5/2019.