Skip to main content

Cystic Fibrosis Treatment

There is no cure for cystic fibrosis but many treatments can help with managing symptoms, including:


Antibiotics, which are the primary treatment for lung problems in CF. They treat airway infections. Other treatments include chest physical therapy, exercise, mucus-thinning drugs, and other medications to reduce inflammation in your airways and help open them up.

Lung transplantation

Lung transplantation is an option for some people with CF.

Digestive problems

Digestive problems, which are a common symptom, can be eased with nutritional therapy, enemas, mucus-thinning drugs, and medications to reduce stomach acid.

Ongoing medical care

Ongoing medical care from a team of health care providers who specialize in CF is important.

Chest physical therapy

Chest physical therapy (CPT) is also called chest clapping or percussion. It involves pounding your chest and back over and over again to dislodge the mucus from your lungs so that you can cough up the mucus. CPT for cystic fibrosis should be done three to four times each day.

Huff cough

Huff cough is a gentle way of coughing, which can wear you out. For more information, see Caring for Your Symptoms at Home.

Breathing techniques

Breathing techniques can help as well:

  • Forced expiration technique (FET)-forcing out a couple of breaths or huffs and then doing relaxed breathing.
  • Active cycle breathing (ACB)-FET with deep breathing exercises that can loosen the mucus in your lungs and help open your airways.
  • Autogenic Drainage is a breathing and cough control technique that can be very effective as a secretion clearance. It does require instruction and practice to perfect the technique. For more information, see Caring for Your Symptoms at Home.

Good self-management

Good self-management is important to your overall health, and includes:

  • Eating a healthy diet.
  • Avoiding tobacco smoke.
  • Exercising frequently.
  • Doing chest physical therapy every day.
  • Drinking lots of fluids.
  • Washing your hands often to reduce your chances of infection.

Other medications

Aside from antibiotics, other medications may help reduce inflammation in your lungs caused by ongoing infections. These medications include:

  • Inhaled or oral steroids are the most effective anti-inflammatory.
  • Ibuprofen, a type of non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medicine, may slow the progress of CF in young children with mild symptoms.
  • Bronchodilators are inhaled drugs that relax the muscles around the airways so that they can open up. They should be taken just before chest physical therapy to help clear mucus.

Mucus-thinning drugs

Mucus-thinning drugs reduce the stickiness of mucus in your airways. They include:

  • Human DNase (dornase alfa), a drug that loosens the mucus in your lungs. It may lead to shorter hospital stays.
  • Hypertonic saline, a solution of very salty sterile water taken by nebulizer two times a day, can help clear mucus and improve lung function.


5th Floor Ambulatory Care Clinic
2211 Lomas Blvd NE
Albuquerque, NM 87106

Hours: Monday-Friday
8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Skip to top of page