Children with Down syndrome will commonly have ear, nose, and throat problems. This includes chronic ear infections and hearing loss, an increased incidence of upper respiratory tract infections and sinus infections, as well as problems with airway obstruction and sleep abnormalities.
It is important to be aware of these common ENT problems and to treat them aggressively. About 40% of children with Down syndrome have very small ear canals making diagnosis of ear infections difficult. If your child has very small ear canals, and your primary care physician cannot see the eardrums, a referral should be made to an ENT doctor for further evaluation. We have special instruments to assist with examination of even the smallest ear canals. Ear infections should be treated with both antibiotics and grommet placement if the infections do not resolve. Hearing levels need to be followed closely with audiograms (hearing tests) every 6 months after that until your child is able to have the right and left ear tested separately.
Sinus infections usually will respond to antibiotics, but it is important to eliminate risk factors that can trigger the infections such as cigarette smoke and large day care classes. Allergies should be considered also.
Studies are showing that sleep abnormalities are much more common in children with Down syndrome than previously thought. If there are signs of obstructions (snoring, restless sleep, odd-sleeping positions, struggling to breathe during sleep or even pauses in the breathing), an evaluation by an ENT doctor should be done.