Sunday, June 28, 2009

Health and Children with Down syndrome

When Bridget was little, we heard over and over how children with Down syndrome are more likely than typical children to have hearing and vision difficulties, thyroid dysfunction and an increased risk of developing leukemia (in addition to the heart defects and complications in roughly half of kids with Ds).

We heard that children with Down syndrome
also more likely to suffer from chronic ear, chest and sinus infections. In general, children with Ds tend to have more health complications and generally weakened immune systems compared to typical children. At least that's what we read and heard.

We were always on the look out for illness with Bridget. I worried that it would take her longer to recover when she did get sick.

We spent Bridget's first month in the hospital, so the whole family became practiced in taking extra precautions to keep her well. (The germs that come with four school-age siblings were a major concern initially.)

our experience with Bridget has been much different than what we prepared for in her first few years. I can count on one hand the number of times she has been sick. I'm always extra concerned about her when she starts to come down with something, but she has proven me wrong time and time again. She holds her own during illness and bounces right back.

For anyone who is curious,
Bridget has received her regular immunizations (on a slightly modified schedule) and within her first year also received shots of Synagis, an antibody given to protect premature infants (and other babies at elevated risk) from respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). She is not on medicines, vitamins or supplements of any kind. She does eat a variety of healthy foods (salmon, avocado, berries, oatmeal, squash, peas, whole grains, lean meats, yogurt, etc.), has very few sweets and limited dairy (other than yogurt). She drinks soy milk.

I realize that Bridget is only (almost) three, and we will continue to screen for the health concerns that are more common in people with Ds. I need to keep reminding myself, though, that Bridget is an individual, and will have her own unique path to travel. While I have no idea whether anything we have done (or not done) has made a difference, I do know that her health--along with her abilities and achievements--can't be predicted.


  1. I'll leave a comment! I think it's interesting how it's so relative. Kids get sick- the average kid gets over 8 colds a year according to my pediatrician. My daughter has had an ASD repair to avoid future heart problems, she has ear tubes to assist her speech and hearing, she had her adenoids out, but many kids do.... Humans are fragile but definitely I do not see my daughter as sickly. In fact she had almost perfect attendance at school this year, zero sick days! It's cool I think that DS is so well studied that we can anticipate potential problems but I agree, that's not the voice of doom, just information!

  2. Parker has been on the other side of the healthy line. Surgeries, oxygen, trach, g-tube.

    But the trach has helped so much in the fact that now when he gets sick he doesn't wind up in the PICU.

    The g-tube allows him enough calories to slowly gain weight.

    The O2 and meds are helping keep his PH stable.

    I know a lot of kids with Ds. Most are very healthy. Some are the healthiest in their families.

    Either way they tend to be loved and adored. We'll take Parker any way we can get him!

    Tammy and Parker
    @ParkerMama on Twitter