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Down's Syndrome and ENT problems

Down's syndrome is also know as Trisomy 21, because children with Down's syndrome have three copies of chromosome 21 instead of the usual two. It is relatively common, with about 750 babies with Down's syndrome born every year in the UK.

Children with Down's syndrome are predisposed to a variety of ENT problems:

-Glue ear

-Acute otitis media

-Inner ear hearing loss

-Upper respiratory infections

-Sleep apnoea

-Airway problems, including airway blockage related to a relatively large tongue, or subglottic stenosis.

Generally speaking, the management of ENT problems in children with Down's syndrome is similar to other children, with health care professionals considering every child as a whole.

For glue ear, both grommets or hearing aids are reasonable option if glue ear persists three months and causes hearing impairment. NICE recommends that hearing aids should normally be considered, because grommets in children with Down's syndrome may be associated with a greater risk of ear discharge, early tube extrusion, and sometimes grommet placement may not be possible due to narrow ear canals. It is important that parents make management decisions fully armed with the relevant information from their health professionals.

The Down's Syndrome Association has an outstanding website with comprehensive resources for children with Down's syndrome and their families.