Issue #33 – Ear Infections: Our Personal Experience

Posted on Posted in All Articles, Down Syndrome and Congenital Heart Defects, ENT

Ear Infections: Our Personal Experience

Sarah Sander


The warmth of the Shabbos candles did little to dispel the fear and angst in my heart.

Moishey was three years old, fast asleep for the night and all was peaceful. My husband raised his Kiddush cup and started to recite the Friday night ritual blessings over the wine, gently looking at the burning candles, while the covered challos patiently waited their turn for acknowledgment. And suddenly, the most horrific screams filled the air, Moishey’s screams, the kind that make one’s blood curdle. I ran into his room and was horrified to see him writhing in pain. I scooped him out of his crib and tried to comfort him and asked him where his boo-boo was, but he was incoherent. He clawed at my face and thrashed about violently.

He had recently developed a string of ear infections. Was this another one? None had come with such violent pain.

I gave him pain medication and held and rocked him until he calmed down completely, and then when we were both drained I laid him back into his bed where he slept for the rest of the night. The scene that greeted me in the morning was not a pretty one; Moishey’s bed sheet was covered in yellowish green puss, and his entire ear was caked in both oozing and dried discharge. This explained his horrific pain of the night before and now we were witnessing the results of a ruptured eardrum.

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Early on our journey of parenting Moishey we learned that ‘Down syndrome ears’ were a force to be reckoned with. Children with Down syndrome are born with narrow eustachian tubes, often resulting in recurrent ear infections. Weeks turned to months and months turned to years and we were over-joyed that Moishey seemed to have beaten that statistic. He was ear infection free. We did, however, take him to ENTs for preventative care and were quite dismayed by the attitudes and different outlooks of different doctors. I remember one doctor in particular who took one look at Moishey and proclaimed, “’Such’ children usually have hearing loss. We will conduct a hearing test on him and we will then schedule him for tubes surgery to promote proper drainage…” and on and on he went about everything that was wrong with ‘such’ children. We visited a senior ENT at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, for a second opinion. He examined Moishey and said, in contrast, “I have never seen such beautiful Down syndrome ears.”

So much for ‘such’ kids.

And then, shortly after Moishey turned three years old he developed ear infections, with a vengeance! They were relentless! He barely completed one course of anti-biotics when he was re-infected and we started all over again. This was going on for months. The agony and the sheer mystery of it was extensive.

One day, I stood in front of the mirror and spoke to myself. I said, “Listen here Sarah; if the doctors cannot figure out why Moishey was infection-free for the first 3 years of his life and now suddenly he is never free of infection, YOU, his Mommy will have to solve this mystery. What changed in Moishey’s life when he turned 3? Okay, he got his big haircut and got payos. Payos do not cause ear infections. What else happened when he turned 3? He started attending pre-school. Yes, children do pick up more viruses during their first year of school exposure, but recurrent ear infections do not fall into that category. C’mon Sarah! You are Moishey’s Mom; you can’t fail him. What else changed in his life when he turned 3??” And then it hit me over the head like a tree felled by lightning! Peanut butter!! I introduced peanut butter into Moishey’s diet when he started going to school. This new pre-school did not provide lunches for the students and parents had to send along sandwich lunches. Prior to attending school, Moishey ate warm lunches at home, but now it was time to introduce sandwiches into his life. Avocado was a non-palatable creation for Moishey’s taste buds back then, fish and eggs wouldn’t last so many hours, so peanut butter was the most practical go-to food. And now I stared at my reflection in the mirror and guilt glared back at me. Why, oh why, did it take me so long to figure this out?

I stopped the suspect peanut butter sandwiches.

Moishey never had an ear infection again.