The main signs and symptoms of cystic fibrosis are salty-tasting skin, poor growth, and poor weight gain despite normal food intake, accumulation of thick, sticky mucus, frequent chest infections, and coughing or shortness of breath. Males can be infertile due to congenital absence of the vas deferens. Symptoms often appear in infancy and childhood, such as bowel obstruction due to meconium ileus in newborn babies. As the children grow, they exercise to release mucus in the alveoli. Epithelial cells in the person have a mutated protein that leads to abnormally viscous mucus production. The poor growth in children typically presents as an inability to gain weight or height at the same rate as their peers, and is occasionally not diagnosed until investigation is initiated for poor growth. The causes of growth failure are multifactorial and include chronic lung infection, poor absorption of nutrients through the gastrointestinal tract, and increased metabolic demand due to chronic illness.