What It Is
Kids with cystic fibrosis (CF) tend to get frequent respiratory infections, sometimes caused by bacteria or fungi. A sputum (mucus) CF respiratory screen or culture helps doctors detect and identify these bacteria or fungi so they can prescribe the most effective antibiotics to target a specific infection.
Why It's Done
A sputum culture can help identify specific causes of infections in the lungs and airways. Such infections can lead to coughing that produces yellow, greenish, or blood-tinged sputum, in addition to fever and difficulty breathing.
Before the test, be sure to tell the doctor whether your child has taken antibiotics recently. The best time for testing is usually in the morning, before your child has had anything to eat or drink. Also, make sure your child doesn't use mouthwash before the test because it may contain antibacterial ingredients that could affect results.
Your child will be asked to rinse his or her mouth out with water, then breathe deeply and cough deeply to produce sputum from the airway.
You or the health professional helping your child may need to tap gently on your child's chest to loosen the sputum in the lungs. If your child can't produce a sample, the lab technician may need to use a tongue depressor to stimulate a cough, or your child may need to inhale a mist solution to help produce a cough.
If your child is scheduled for a bronchoscopy (a test done with a small telescope to evaluate the upper airway and bronchi), a sputum screen is likely to be done at this time.
What to Expect
Your child may feel mild discomfort when taking a deep breath or coughing. If your child inhales the mist solution, the urge to cough may be strong. It may take several attempts at coughing to produce the amount of sputum needed for the test.
Getting the Results
The sputum sample is collected into a sterile container and sent to a laboratory. The sample is then placed on a special plate that enables growth of certain bacteria and fungi if an infection is present.
If your child has a bacterial infection, the organisms may need 48 hours to grow. Fungi need a week or longer. These organisms will be seen under a microscope or through chemical tests. If the tests show an infection, another 1-2 days may be needed to choose the best antibiotic to treat it.
Coughing to produce the sputum specimen may be mildly uncomfortable, but there are no risks associated with this procedure.
Helping Your Child
Explaining the test in terms your child can understand might help ease any fear. Also reassure your child that the procedure doesn't hurt.
If You Have Questions
If you have questions about the sputum respiratory screen, speak with your doctor.
Reviewed by: Rupal Christine Gupta, MD
Date reviewed: August 2015
|American Medical Association (AMA) The AMA has made a commitment to medicine by making doctors more accessible to their patients. Contact the AMA at: American Medical Association|
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|Cystic Fibrosis Foundation This organization offers information about the illness, public policy, clinical trials and local chapters.|
|Lab Tests Online This non-commercial site was developed by laboratory professionals to educate caregivers, patients, and patients' families about lab tests.|
|Lungs and Respiratory System By the time we're 70 years old, we will have taken at least 600 million breaths. All of this breathing couldn't happen without the respiratory system.|
|Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Chloride Sweat Test Is your child scheduled to have a sweat test? Find out how this test is performed and how it's used to diagnose cystic fibrosis.|
|What Are Germs? Germs are the microscopic bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa that can cause disease. With a little prevention, you can keep harmful germs out of your family's way.|
|Cystic Fibrosis Cystic fibrosis (CF), a genetic disorder that particularly affects the lungs and digestive system, makes kids who have it more vulnerable to repeated lung infections.|
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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