Health issues related to the ears, nose and throat are common among children with Down syndrome. Most of these issues are also present throughout the children’s lives thus emphasizing the importance for both parents and ENT doctors to work closely in their management. Their effective management is a must, too, considering that ENT issues are closely linked to the child’s physical, mental and social development.
Chronic Ear Infections
Children with Down syndrome are prone to chronic ear infections for two reasons. First, infections in the upper airways can result in a swollen Eustachian tube that, in turn, traps bacteria in the ears. These children have a high risk for upper respiratory tract infections, thus, the higher risk for chronic ear infections, too.
Second, children with Down syndrome have low muscle tone that also affects the normal function of the Eustachian tube, particularly its opening and closing. This can result in negative pressure building up in the middle ear so there’s high risk for infection-causing fluid retention.
The bottom line: Your child’s pediatrician should regularly monitor your child’s ear health. In a few cases, pressure equalization tubes will be repeatedly placed to reduce the risk, if not eliminate, chronic ear infections.
Chronis Rhinitis and Sinusitis
Children with Down syndrome are also predisposed to chronic rhinitis and sinusitis because of their facial anatomy and their immunological system. While each child ideally has an individualized treatment plan, the common methods used are saline drops or spray, steroid nasal spray, and antihistamine medications.
In children who don’t respond well to these medical interventions, surgery may be necessary. This usually involves the removal of adenoids, which may or may not be accompanied by an endoscopic sinus procedure.
Doctors usually recommend audiologic testing as soon as an infant is diagnosed with Down syndrome. This should then be followed by testing every six months until the child reaches three years old – or in many instances, until he can cooperate in ear-specific testing procedures. After he reaches the age of three, he should undergo a hearing test every year.
The importance of hearing tests for children with Down syndrome cannot be overemphasized. Hearing loss has a significant impact on mental, emotional and social development – and during his school years, in his educational development. Such is the importance of hearing in children with Down syndrome that hearing aids may be recommended even with mild hearing loss.
With proper medical care and supportive parental care, children with Down syndrome can live a full life despite their health issues. Start by talking to your child’s pediatrician about these matters.
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offering ENT services,
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