Pediatric Conditions That Mimic Cystic Fibrosis

Certain conditions mimic cystic fibrosis. These conditions usually have similar systemic symptoms. Some conditions exclusively affect pediatric populations while others overlap between both groups. We consider them mimickers because of how much they look like cystic fibrosis.

Condition Mimickers And Your Diagnosis

Condition mimickers can delay when you or your loved one receives the right diagnosis. One of two things happens in this situation. You or your loved one gets the wrong diagnosis. Or your condition goes undetected.

Neither helps you to improve your health or quality of life. But, the good news is that healthcare providers know these sorts of condition mimickers exist. Part of their job is to rule out these conditions to get to the right diagnosis. In this case, cystic fibrosis in children.

Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia (PCD)

Primary ciliary dyskinesia is one condition that mimics cystic fibrosis. It’s a rare but deadly lung condition in children.

Children with PCD have cilia that don’t work right. So all of the mucus and bacteria don’t get cleared from their lungs. This malfunction not only increases their risks for infections but also causes respiratory symptoms!


We can’t start to talk about your airways and conditions that affect them that look like cystic fibrosis, and not mention asthma. Asthma is another condition that mimics cystic fibrosis in children.

Asthma is another condition whose presentation resembles cystic fibrosis. The similarities between asthma and cystic fibrosis are plenty! They’re both conditions marked by airway inflammation and obstruction. If you have the condition you have different respiratory symptoms and sometimes you’ll have trouble breathing. They almost seem like the same condition. But that’s where the similarities end.

The Big Difference

  • The cough. Asthma has a nonproductive cough. A cystic fibrosis cough produces mucus!
  • The trigger. Cystic fibrosis has two triggers. Asthma has twenty-plus.
  • The Effects. Asthma affects your respiratory system. Cystic fibrosis is a condition that affects many systems, such as your digestive system and your immune system.

Failure To Thrive

Failure to thrive is a label used to describe children whose growth doesn’t match what’s expected by their age. We often use weight; children underweight or whose weight gain is significantly behind other children.

Remember that children with cystic fibrosis have gastrointestinal and nutritional problems that cause malabsorption and malnutrition. So, failure to thrive is another condition to mimic cystic fibrosis.

Is There An Overlap?

It’s possible! Some kids with cystic fibrosis are considered a failure to thrive. However, cystic fibrosis is one of many causes of failure to thrive.

Celiac Disease

Have you ever seen foods advertised as gluten-free in the market? Do you know someone on a gluten-free diet? If you do, they’re probably part of the 1% of the population that’s affected by celiac disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that causes systemic manifestations after consuming wheat or wheat gluten. In this case, gluten acts as the trigger for your body’s systemic responses.

Do you have one or more of the tell-tale features of celiac disease?

Signs and Symptoms

  • A vitamin deficiency.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Bloating.
  • Malabsorption.

The Systemic Nature Of Celiac Disease

Think of the systemic nature of cystic fibrosis. It affects many organs and organ systems. And it is linked to developing health conditions. The same is true for celiac disease. It usually has gastrointestinal presentations. But it affects your intestines and heart health. And it can also resemble and cause malnutrition and failure to thrive.

Managing Celiac Disease

Celiac is a life-long condition. But, management is possible with one or more of these lifestyle changes!

  • Avoid foods with gluten.
  • Notify your child’s school of their strict dietary needs.
  • Take the vitamins and supplements.

Immunodeficiency Disorders

Last is immunodeficiency disorders. These are rare, systemic disorders that mimic cystic fibrosis. The word “immuno” relates to the immune system. So you can tell by its name that immunodeficiency disorders affect a child’s immune system.

Our immune system has the important job to protect us from foreign substances and invader bacteria. Immunodeficiency disorders happen when the body can’t perform its job.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Failure to thrive.
  • Chronic infections.