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What Causes Childhood Interstitial Lung Disease?

Researchers don't yet know all of the causes of childhood interstitial lung disease (chILD). Many times, these diseases have no clear cause.

Some conditions and factors that may cause or lead to chILD include:

  • Inherited conditions, such as surfactant disorders. 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.
  • Birth defects that cause problems with the structure or function of the lungs.
  • Aspiration (as-pih-RA-shun). This term refers to inhaling substances—such as food, liquid, or vomit—into the lungs. Inhaling these substances can injure the lungs. Aspiration may occur in children who have swallowing problems or gastroesophageal (GAS-tro-eh-so-fa-JE-al) reflux disease (GERD). GERD occurs if acid from the stomach backs up into the throat.
  • Immune system disorders. 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.
  • Exposure to substances in the environment that can irritate the lungs, such as molds and chemicals.
  • Some cancer treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy.
  • Systemic or autoimmune diseases, 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.
  • A bone marrow transplant or a lung transplant.
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Childhood Interstitial Lung Disease Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. To find clinical trials that are currently underway for Childhood Interstitial Lung Disease, visit

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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.