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Who Is at Risk for Childhood Interstitial Lung Disease?

Childhood interstitial lung disease (chILD) is rare. Most children are not at risk for chILD. However, some factors increase the risk of developing chILD. These risk factors include:

  • Having a family history of interstitial lung disease or chILD.
  • Having an inherited surfactant disorder or a family history of this type of disorder. Surfactant is a liquid that coats the inside of the lungs. It helps with breathing and may help protect the lungs from bacterial and viral infections.
  • Having problems with aspiration. This term "aspiration" refers to inhaling substances—such as food, liquid, or vomit—into the lungs.
  • Having an immune system disorder. The immune system protects the body against bacteria, viruses, and toxins. Children who have immune system disorders aren't able to fight illness and disease as well as children who have healthy immune systems.
  • Being exposed to substances in the environment that can irritate the lungs, such as molds and chemicals.
  • Having a systemic or autoimmune disease, such as collagen vascular disease or inflammatory bowel disease. Systemic diseases are diseases that involve many of the body's organs. Autoimmune diseases occur if the body's immune system mistakenly attacks the body's tissues and cells.
  • Undergoing some cancer treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy.
  • Having a bone marrow transplant or a lung transplant.

Certain types of chILD are more common in infants and young children, while others can occur in children of any age. For more information, go to "Types of Childhood Interstitial Lung Disease." 

The risk of death seems to be higher for children who have chILD and pulmonary hypertension, developmental or growth disorders, bone marrow transplants, or certain surfactant problems.

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March 21, 2014 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.