People with cystic fibrosis (CF) have an increased risk of contracting and passing on harmful bacteria to other people with CF. This means people with CF need to avoid close physical contact with other people with the condition.

A person with CF will also need to take precautions to help prevent infections.

This article looks at how those with CF can connect with others, provides tips on how to be in a relationship with someone with CF, and explains how to help prevent contracting an infection.

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According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, people with CF need to keep a distance of 6 feet between each other and between those with an infection, including a cold or flu. This is because harmful viruses and bacteria can travel 6 feet if a person coughs or sneezes.

People with CF have an increased risk of contracting harmful viruses or bacteria that people without CF may not. This can then pass on to another individual with CF. Healthcare professionals refer to this as cross-infection.

In people with CF, these viruses and bacteria may lead to worsened symptoms and declining lung function.

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation recommends that people with CF not live together and avoid any activities that include close physical contact with another person with CF. This includes:

  • shaking hands
  • hugging
  • kissing
  • sharing objects, such as toys, pens, or computers
  • being together in enclosed or poorly ventilated areas, such as a car

People with CF can connect with others with CF through online platforms and support groups. Ways of connecting with others with CF may include:

  • online communities and support groups, which may include video chats
  • social media networks
  • peer support groups, such as CF Peer Connect, a one-to-one peer support program for people 16 years and older
  • online community conferences, which bring people with CF together virtually
  • finding a local chapter that fundraises and runs community events virtually and outdoors for people with CF

Having CF may affect some aspects of a relationship. This can happen due to managing a chronic illness, taking steps to prevent infections, and the symptoms of CF.

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation notes that if people with CF are having difficulty speaking with their partner about their condition, they may find it beneficial to speak with a member of their healthcare team or a therapist.

It may also be useful to read relationship advice from other people with CF or connect with others with similar experiences via online community support groups.

When in a relationship, it is important to:

  • communicate with their partner about how CF makes them feel and how they can show support
  • avoid sharing personal items, such as toothbrushes
  • encourage a partner to wash their hands regularly and get vaccinated against illnesses, such as the flu
  • recognize that intimacy can come from activities other than sexual intercourse

It is also important to discuss how CF and its symptoms can affect sexual intimacy. For example, CF can affect a person’s energy and sex drive during times of increased illness.

Before engaging in sexual intercourse, a person with CF can use a short-acting bronchodilator and perform airway clearance therapies.

During sexual intercourse, it may be helpful to use pillows to support the back and find positions that place less pressure on the chest and use less energy.

CF and family planning

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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A 2021 article notes that reduced fertility can occur in most males and some females.

If people with CF wish to conceive, options may include:

  • assisted reproductive technology
  • surrogacy
  • adoption

In most cases, people with CF will have typical pregnancies. However, premature delivery is common, particularly in those with reduced lung function and CF-related diabetes.

A person can speak with a doctor about how their condition or CF medications will affect their pregnancy. However, most medications for CF may be safe to take during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Although there is a reduction in fertility, unintended pregnancies can still occur. For those who do not wish to conceive, they can speak with a healthcare professional about which contraception options may be best for them. Hormonal birth control may cause specific side effects in people with CF.

Steps to help reduce the risk of contracting germs and infections include the following:

  • staying at least 6 feet away from anyone with a cold, flu, infection, or CF
  • avoiding close physical contact with anyone with an illness
  • washing hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • covering the mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and then throwing the tissue in a bin
  • cleaning and disinfecting a nebulizer before and after use, following the product instructions
  • avoiding sharing personal items that come into contact with saliva or bodily fluids
  • avoiding or limiting activities that put people in prolonged contact with dirt and dust, such as gardening or home renovation
  • considering telling a school or workplace about CF and how they can provide support and help prevent infections from spreading
  • staying up to date with vaccinations to help prevent infection, such as the flu vaccine

People with CF can pass on harmful viruses and bacteria to others with CF. For this reason, experts recommend people with CF stay 6 feet apart from each other and avoid any close physical contact with those with the condition.

People may also want to connect with others with CF through online communities, social media networks, and virtual support groups.